Good season for area tourist camps

Joey Payeur

The Canadian economy has been a central topic of the federal election campaign.
But it was the recovering U.S. economy that helped out local tourist camp owners this year.
That was part of the message portrayed by members of the North Western Ontario Tourism Association during their annual fall meeting Thursday in Emo.
“In 2015, it seemed everything was better,” said NWOTA president Lucas Adams.
“Traffic was up a bit, which I think had to do somewhat with the improvement in the U.S. economy,” he noted.
“Some of those people were probably coming for the better exchange on the U.S. dollar.”
Bob and Peg Hunter of Whitefish Bay Camp concurred.
“It was a very good year with an above-average turnout of clients,” said Bob Hunter.
“We found our camp has kind of plateaued,” he admitted.
“But though we’ve plateaued, we’ve been able to keep our numbers up there,” he added, noting the camp’s clientele was made up of 74 percent of returning guests this year.
“Much of that was thanks to connections we made through sportsman’s shows we attended, as well as social media and the TV program ‘Due North Outdoors’ out of the Twin Cities that promoted Northwestern Ontario,” Hunter said.
Both Adams and the Hunters also are optimistic about next year.
“Bookings for 2016 seem to be right on schedule,” Adams noted.
“We’re doing well attracting people because we’ve got middle-of-the-road fees and a flexibility of packages we offer,” said Peg Hunter.
“We had approximately 400 people this year and we’ve only got a small camp with eight cabins.
“We could never fill every bed in every cabin every week but that’s not so bad,” she added.
“You lose touch with the people who are staying with you if you’ve got all the beds going at once to worry about.”
Peg Hunter said one hope of hers going forward is for better communication on regulation changes and enforcement practices from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry.
“The camps have been hit with so many changes in these areas, if they could give us a little more forewarning, it would be good,” she reasoned.
“It costs thousands of dollars to bring these things up to date and I don’t think the people making these changes are getting any input from the camp owners.”
Bob Hunter also highlighted his concern about being able to adequately staff tourism camps.
“All camps seem to be facing the difficulty of finding qualified staffing and this was one of the worst years for it,” he remarked.
“The qualified people that are out there can’t necessarily be available for a seasonal job that goes from the first of May to the first of October,” Hunter said.