12 November 2021
Case study: Canada’s Food Island Gift Card
The Canada’s Food Island Gift Card is a gift card initiative on Prince Edward Island, located off the east coast of Canada, designed to stimulate the economy and encourage spend from locals, tourists and corporates.
Miconex’s first Canadian project alongside EML Payments, the Canada’s Food Island Gift Card for Prince Edward Island launched on the 28th September 2020. Their initial release of 5000 gift cards sold out in 4.5 days. 20,000 additional gift cards were made available in October, with almost half of these selling out within a week.
Kent Thompson, Director of Finance and Food Tourism for Food Island Partnership said the Canada’s Food Island Gift Card project has already vastly exceeded their expectations:
“We have 150,000 residents on Prince Edward Island as Canada’s smallest province and had projected that the entire project would raise $100,000 for our local economy. It quickly turned into a $1.7 million project. Our task now is to revise our projections and look at how we can use the gift card for next year’s tourism marketing.”
Tourism is key for Prince Edward Island, with covid hitting their tourism industry hard and meaning regular campaigns were unable to take place, including their popular September Fall Flavours campaign. The Canada’s Food Island Gift Card was introduced to stimulate the economy and lock in local spend, supported by the government.
Key to the introduction of the Canada’s Food Island Gift Card was an attractive discount, with the initial release of cards sold at 20% discount, effectively $50 for a $40 spend. Cards were also made available to 30 of the island’s accommodation providers at a 40% discount as part of a Stay and Savour campaign. Guests could receive two Canada’s Food Island Gift Cards with a 2 night stay on the Island.
The target: tourists and locals plus corporates
Mr Thompson believes their main target of tourists and locals, plus corporates in the second release has been key to the early success of the programme:
“The introduction of the gift card has enabled us to extend our tourist season. In the second phase 20,000 gift cards were ordered, 2000 were for accommodation providers, 15,000 were for retail to consumers and 3000 were for corporates. We added corporates into our second release because so many employers were wanting to buy the gift card for staff. Staff in Canada often contribute to a staff fund and with holiday receptions unable to take place for large numbers of people, the Canada’s Food Island Gift Card is a great alternative.”
80 merchants had signed up to receive the Canada’s Food Island Gift Card as payment within a week of the project being announced. When the gift card launched, it was accepted by 150 merchants. This variety makes the card more valuable for the consumer suggests Mr Thompson.
Communicating with target audiences
Canada’s Versatile Management Group has worked alongside Food Island Partnership on the introduction of the gift card, and social media has been key to their communications strategy said Mr Thompson:
“We identified key people who are active on social media on the island to be advocates for the Canada’s Food Island Gift Card, looking at factors such as their engagement. Most are active on social media as a hobby, so we brought people in who could offer training on social media, giving them new skills and tools to be advocates for the gift card. After arranging gift cards and helping our advocates to plan itineraries, they began posting about how they used the card.
“Providing social media templates for our merchants has helped them to actively promote their participation in the programme and to let people know that they can redeem the Canada’s Food Island Gift Card at their business.
“Our local media have also been extremely supportive and engaged in the project, including our local news platform CBC and I have given various interviews as the project has progressed. Because of the first release of cards selling out so fast, it really captured people’s imaginations. They wanted to know when the next release of cards would be available.”
Mr Thompson says the next focus for the project is redemption, both showing people how to use the cards and encouraging people to use them. Food Island Partnership will also be analysing the data collected through the cards to better understand customer behaviour. Initial analysis though suggests that locals tend to use the Canada’s Food Island Gift Card for eating out at the Island’s restaurants, whilst tourists favour golf, restaurants and shopping. People are also spending more than the value of the gift card.
Tips for success
For other places considering introducing a similar programme, Mr Thompson said there are three factors to consider, making the gift card good value, sharing where and how it can be redeemed, and choosing a programme that is easy to use:
“The discount we offered really helped us to overcome those initial reservations people might have about trying a new programme. It was attractive enough to encourage people to give it a go. Getting people to buy the gift card is just half of the equation, the rest comes in inspiring them to use it. Finally, and fundamentally, the Canada’s Food Island Gift Card powered by Miconex and EML is easy to work with and easy for customers to use.
“Our only regret, if you call it that, is that we didn’t start the programme sooner. In September when we launched, children were back at school and the tourism season was starting to slow down. My advice for other places thinking of starting a programme is to get started early.”
For further information on the Canada’s Food Island Gift Card, please visit www.canadasfoodisland.ca