Re­ju­ve­nated re­gion

Mill River re­sort’s suc­cess is boost­ing the bot­tom line of other West Prince at­trac­tions

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - THE ISLAND - ERIC MCCARTHY [email protected]­nal­pi­oneer.com

WOODSTOCK — From the Mill River Ex­pe­ri­ence front lobby, gen­eral man­ager Louise Arse­nault sees a steady stream of peo­ple pass­ing through the front doors.

Some are ar­riv­ing for a golf tour­na­ment, oth­ers are check­ing in or ar­riv­ing for din­ner.

“It’s look­ing very pos­i­tive; lots of ques­tions, lots of en­quiries about what’s hap­pen­ing in Mill River and what there is to do in the west­ern re­gion,” Arse­nault said.

“It’s pac­ing ahead and look­ing very strong.”

The win­ter sea­son was also very strong.

“We were very for­tu­nate to be in the part of the Is­land that had snow.”

Arse­nault said the re­sort and the re­gion as a whole are ben­e­fit­ing from the year-round busi­ness. For in­stance, un­til three years ago, the re­sort’s only win­ter­time hours were dur­ing the March break pe­riod.

“I have seen the re­ju­ve­na­tion of Mill River Re­sort,” said Arse­nault who has worked there for over 30 years. “Mill River was al­ways a pop­u­lar place and holds a lot of mem­o­ries for fam­i­lies and folks. To see it re­ju­ve­nated, peo­ple are very ex­cited about it.”

An am­bi­tious ren­o­va­tion project was un­der­taken at the re­sort soon after Don Mac­Dougall gained own­er­ship of the sprawl­ing prop­erty early in 2017.

When the fa­cil­ity was first con­structed and then again years later when it was about to un­dergo its ren­o­va­tions, Mill River was pre­sented as a cat­a­lyst for tourism growth in west­ern P.E.I.

Arse­nault refers to the Mill River Re­sort’s vi­sion: “To de­velop the Mill River Prop­erty to be the Cen­tre of Ex­cel­lence for tourism, recre­ation and well­ness in West Prince”, and it’s mis­sion, “To pro­vide or be a cat­a­lyst for other en­trepreneur­s or com­mu­nity or­ga­ni­za­tions pro­vid­ing ser­vices that im­prove the life­style and econ­omy of West Prince.”

She said the re­sort is meet­ing its mis­sion. Kelly Ashley, ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor of the North Cape Coastal Drive Tourism Ini­tia­tive Part­ner­ship, also rec­og­nizes Mill River as a cat­a­lyst.

“The up­grades, they’re fan­tas­tic,” she said. “Peo­ple are re­ally lov­ing it when they go in.”

Ashley noted the re­sort uti­lized sev­eral lo­cal sup­pli­ers dur­ing the ren­o­va­tions and fea­tures lo­cal com­pa­nies in its gift shop.

For ex­am­ple, ev­ery bed in the re­sort’s 70 ren­o­vated guest rooms is dec­o­rated with a MacAus­land’s Woolen Mill blanket.

Dale MacAus­land ap­pre­ci­ates the busi­ness, not­ing his woollen mill con­tin­ues to ben­e­fit. The re­sort car­ries the com­pany’s blan­kets in the gift shop and di­rects in­ter­ested guests to the mill’s re­tail shop, just down the road.

“There’s some buzz about it,” said MacAus­land.

He noted the re­sort was a hap­pen­ing spot when it was first built, and sug­gested Mac­Dougall has helped make it so again.

Prod­ucts by west­ern P.E.I. man­u­fac­tur­ers like Grand De­signs and Dan’s Kitchens fea­ture promi­nently in all the guest rooms. The gift shop fea­tures lo­cally-made prod­ucts from such sup­pli­ers as Is­land Tree, Hol­i­day Is­land Pro­duc­tions, Po­plar­line Farms maple syrup and Fol­low Your Heart Wood­work­ing.

Ashley, who noted her of­fice re­ceives a lot of re­quests for in­for­ma­tion about the re­sort, noted the ren­o­vated fa­cil­ity will fac­tor in nicely with the NCCD’s in­ter­est in tap­ping into the bus tour sec­tor of tourism.

The re­sort also in­cludes a cham­pi­onship golf course, aquaplex and camp­ground. Arse­nault said num­bers look very strong this year for all three at­trac­tions.

Arse­nault added the re­sort is do­ing a good job of di­rect­ing its guests to other at­trac­tions in the area, whether it is a tour of the West Point Light­house, a meal at the Northport Boat­shop Restau­rant, a Stompin’ Tom Din­ner Theatre per­for­mance, a visit to North Cape or to one of the busi­nesses featured in its gift shop.

“(Tourism oper­a­tors) have con­tacted us, cer­tainly, to make us aware, so that we can pro­mote (their at­trac­tions) from this end,” said Arse­nault, “be­cause, the more we have to of­fer our guests who come to west­ern P.E.I., the longer they will stay with us.”

ERIC MCCARTHY/JOUR­NAL PI­O­NEER

Mill River Ex­pe­ri­ence gen­eral man­ager Louise Arse­nault shows prod­ucts from lo­cal sup­pli­ers avail­able in the re­sort’s gift shop.

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