Interview w/ Mark McLane
I experienced early career successes in the fast-paced, high-stress business world but I wanted to have a lifestyle transition in which I could spend more time with my wife and three daughters as we live now in Cornwall, PEI.
I have been Golf PEI’s Executive Director since 2012 and I am responsible for the overall strategic golf destination plan, management of the association’s marketing and operating budgets and the management of Golf PEI ‘s reservation center staff.
Before joining Golf PEI, I was a business owner for nearly 10 years and during that time was awarded the 1999 Business Development Bank of Canada Young Entrepreneur Award. In 2001, I sold my company to the Datarite group of companies where I remained during the transition period and then became President of iWave Information Systems, a publicly traded company in July 2004. iWave was eventually sold to a private investor.
Even before joining Golf PEI, I’ve been an avid golfer and fan — attending the President’s Cup in Montreal in 2007 and the PGA Grand Slam of Golf in Bermuda in 2010.
Matt Ward: What is the main attraction of Prince Edward Island?
Mark McLane: Prince Edward Island, Canada’s smallest province, is also its most majestic. It’s not just our lively culture, delicious cuisine, endless beaches, award-winning golf courses and outdoor adventures – each quite magical on their own. It’s how it all comes together with the simple pleasure that makes life here worthwhile. Overall the pace of the island way of life is what attracts over a million visitors each year. We are often called “The Gentle Island”.
MW: How many total courses exist on the island and among them which ones would you say rate the highest in terms of overall quality?
MM: PEI is widely considered Canada’s number one golf destination, just a little bigger than Delaware, and boasts 27 courses offering something for every interest, skill level or budget. The Links at Crowbush Cove is consistently rated in the top 10 courses in all of Canada, while Dundarave sits at No. 27. The Cavendish beach area is also home to five gems in Glasgow Hills, Eagles Glenn, Anderson’s Creek, Red Sands and Stanley Thompson’s 1939 masterpiece Green Gables. Mill River is another must play and was the first host non-US host of the Golf Channel’s Big Break in 2007. Courses close to the capital of Charlottetown include Fox Meadow, Countryview, Glen Afton, Clyde River to name a few.
MW: How did things go this past summer season?
MM: Despite one of the worst winters in recent memory and a delayed Spring season, the momentum of the 2014 tourist season continued into 2015. Prince Edward Island and all of Canada celebrated an important chapter in their history in 2014, as PEI marked the 150th anniversary of the 1864 Charlottetown Conference – where the idea of Canada, as a nation, was proposed – with a spectacular year-long tribute. During a recent weekend in August 2015, all licensed hotels, motels, cottages and B&Bs in P.E.I. were full. It was the first time in at least a decade that all roofed accommodations available for nightly booking were full.
MW: Are golf rounds played rising — ahead of projections?
MM: Overall paid rounds are down about 2% over last year but our courses opened almost 3 weeks later than usual in 2015. If we remove the month of May for comparative purposes, the paid round are actually up nearly 3% YTD. The delayed opening is certainly a major factor in our overall numbers.
MW: What impact has happened with a strong dollar for Americans? Is the number up considerably this year versus recent years past?
MM: With the US Dollar climbing in value to the Canadian dollar, 2015 has been very good season despite the poor Spring weather start. The strong US dollar keeps Canadians in Canada for their annual golf trip and with a 25 to 30% premium on the US dollar and a top green fee of only $100 at peak season, the value of a golf trip to PEI is unmatchable. 25 courses are less than $70 US to play at peak season.
MW: Besides the golf dimension — what are some of the favorite “to do” things when at PEI?
MM: PEI and beaches are practically synonyms with more than 600 miles of shoreline. When visitors think of PEI, many immediately imagine the smooth warm sand, red sandstone cliffs, soft blue sky, and the white-capped waves of the surrounding seas. Zagat recently crowned PEI as the second best foodie getaway in the world. The land here is rich, producing a bounty of fruits, vegetables, meat and dairy products. Our waters teem with fish, as well as lobster, oysters, other shellfish and the best mussels in the world. Anne of Green Gables is the longest running annual musical theatre production in the world with a total audience of more than 2 million since 1965.
MW: How late into the golf season can one reasonably play when visiting?
MM: Golf can run into about the end of October with September being one of the best months to play golf on PEI. Some courses do stay open for November but it varies year to year.
MW: On the flip side how soon does the golf season usually begin?
MM: The golf season on Prince Edward Island opens in early to mid May.
MW:Besides Canadian and American visitors — where do others come from who visit? Is golf high on their agenda when coming?
MM: Prince Edward Island hosted more than 1.3 million tourists in 2015. The primary markets, accounting for the majority of visitation, include Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Ontario, and Quebec. Secondary markets are the US (Mid-Atlantic, New England), Japan, German and the UK. More than 50% of the rounds on PEI are played by non-residents.
MW: Outline a specific challenge in the years ahead — and what trends do you see overall in the golf tourism market.
MM: The golf industry on PEI is very reliant on the overall tourism market of Prince Edward Island. Because of the quantity and proximity of our courses, many tourists play many of their annual rounds while visiting PEI. Any declines in overall Tourism can affect the golf course industry. The weakening of the Canadian dollar versus the US dollar is an opportunity for further growth of the PEI golf industry. The recent emergence of Cape Breton as a golf destination will benefit PEI and the rest of Atlantic Canada as the US market — especially the New England and tri-state New York areas — come to realize the quality and quantity and value of the golf in Atlantic Canada.