PRINCE EDWARD COUNTY -- Many Prince Edward County businesses say they’re getting back in the swing of things after a difficult year.

The region is one that relies on tourism, but COVID-19 measures meant keeping business at bay during the start of the season.

Helen Morris has worked at Rosehall Run Vineyards on Greer Road for four years in the tasting room.

Morris says she’s happy to be popping the cork for customers once again. 

“This is pure joy. People are happy to be here when they arrive in the parking lot, they’re happy to taste the wine,” she says.

Businesses like this were allowed to reopen under Step 2 of Ontario’s reopening for patio visitors only. Co-owner Lynn Sullivan says it was a slow start but now, under Step 3, customers are returning.

“It’s always busiest on the weekends,” she said. “But now that it’s July, it’s starting to build up through the week as well.”

The winery has limited spaces so they’ve turned to reservations for tastings, advising interested connoisseurs to call ahead. The method, so far, a success.

“For the time being we’re just trying to keep it slow,” says Sullivan. “And keep it to the point where not everyone is rushed and not everyone is crowded.”

Other vineyards, like The Grange of Prince Edward Winery on Clossen Road, are using wide acreages to their advantage.

President Maggie Granger says it was important the vineyard welcome walk-ins.

“We knew from previous years the foot traffic in this area was really high,” she said. “So we needed to make sure we weren’t turning away the vast majority of those turning up on our door step.”

So far, crowds haven’t been an issue, says Granger.

“This way everyone has their fair chance,” she says. “There’s lots of room, and it made it feel really nice and an even playing field for everyone.”

Last summer, the region proved to be a popular destination and officials have taken steps this year to prevent overcrowding.

That includes at Sandbanks Provincial Park, which now requires pre-booked passes to visit the beach up to five days in advance. Those have sold out for this weekend.

Visitors flocking also means some hotels and bed and breakfasts are also seeing a boom.

Nancy Pavan, owner of The Wilfrid Boutique Farmhouse on Royal Road, says weekends are booked up until the end of October.

“Our visitors, 90 per cent are coming from Toronto, and the rest is split between Ottawa and Quebec,” she says. 

For an industry built on relaxation, Pavan says that’s a relief, after a difficult year.

“We can’t complain. People are leaving and wanting to buy things and encourage local, so it’s been a lot of love given back,” she says. “It’s great.”