Rough times for some outfitters

by Jeff Helsdon | July 15, 2022
a gas sign that is funny

After two tough years with COVID-19, Ontario outfitters are facing a multitude of challenges this year.

Pandemic restrictions, which at press time require American tourists to be double vaccinated, are the leading cause of cancellations. High gasoline prices and flooding in northwestern Ontario are adding to the problems.

“It’s such a shame because these people (Americans) want to come here, they want to experience our outdoors,” said Laurie Marcil, executive director of Nature and Outdoor Tourism Ontario (NOTO).

The organization surveyed its members and all 138 who responded reported cancellations. Marcil said vaccination requirements are the largest reason but some who are vaccinated don’t like the idea of random testing.

“The federal government seems to believe we are in recovery, but we are not yet,” she said. “We could be if a few things change.”

Tax credit helping

The organization is lobbying the federal government and calling on the province to assist with making a case to Ottawa. The situation is dire for some operators. On a positive note, Marcil said the Ontario Staycation Tax Credit is helping bring in domestic customers.

High waters in northwestern Ontario are forcing some operators to put off bookings and Marcil said the water is not receding as of the first week of June.

“After two years not being able to welcome guests due to COVID restrictions, now we’re dealing with Mother Nature,” she said. “It’s very discouraging for these operators.”

In these cases, an application has been made for disaster relief.

Gas cost blamed

On a third front, 38% of those who responded to the survey cited gas prices as a reason for their customers cancelling.

Bob Garson of Garson’s Fly-In Outposts said he lost about 25% of his bookings, most of which were people who put down deposits in hopes vaccination requirements would be lifted. All cancellations are anglers as Garson said the hunters seem more committed.

Not all are in this situation, however. Debbie Johnston of Mar Mac Lodge and Eric Lund of Ensagami Lodge and Outposts both said they haven’t had any cancellations.

“The north cannot live without this resource-based tourism,” Marcil said. “We’ll have ghost towns.”

To read more about how COVID-19 is impacting your outdoors community, click here

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