By KELLY LOUISEIZE
Ken Turner admits he was a bit wet behind the ears when he bought the Woodland Echoes Resort in Magnetawan, one hour south of North Bay. Originally it was intended to be a lodge for fishing groups.
Only after a few years of ownership did he realize the lake was over fished and both he and his wife Carol would have to find other ways of generating revenue. They began to advertise not so much as a fishing resort, but as an outdoor destination haven.
“There is a real demand for outdoor recreational activity and people want that kind of experience,” Turner says.
“We have created a niche. We are on the Trans-Canada Trail. We have people coming up here to bike, hike and ski.”
Good business relationships with neighbouring businesses enhanced the attraction and marketing potential of the resort.
“We have tied in with a fellow who runs dog sleds. He has the dogs and I package it with accommodations,” Turner says. “We have used some of the Trans-Canada Trail for the dog sleds.”
Visitors take in Northern Ontario’s raw beauty and the indigenous animals like elk, deer, moose, bear and beaver while riding through trails.
In the spring and fall the Turners look to another partner who keeps Icelandic horses. Again the same arrangement is made. After a day riding, guests hang their hats for a dip in the indoor or outdoor hot tubs, while someone else prepares the supper and the bed.
This unique resort represents a shift in thinking in the tourism industry making resource-based tourism one of the three largest industries in Northern Ontario, says Gerry Webber, acting co-ordinator for resource-based tourism for the Ministry of Tourism and Recreation.
“The industry is becoming a lot more focused, and more professional, and more Northern Ontario resource-based tourism (operators are) growing competitive in their product offerings,” Webber says.
Webber and colleagues are currently drafting up a study on the economical impact tourism had in Ontario in 2001. It covers approximately 83 million hectares of Ontario’s land and waters. In order to get a clear idea of how many people partake in activities such as swimming, fishing, camping and the economic impact from these activities, they sectioned 87 per cent of Ontario’s Crown land into census regions. These regions include: Rainy River/Kenora and Thunder Bay, Nipissing/Parry Sound/Manitoulin, Timiskaming/Sudbury, Algoma/Sudbury Region, Cochrane, Haliburton/Muskoka, Peterborough, Victoria and Northumberland Counties.
“We had over 5.9 million Canadians, Americans and overseas visitors who engaged in resource-based tourism,” within the designated regions, Webber says.
Broken down, approximately 74 per cent of the 5.9 million were from Ontario, 18 per cent from the United States, five per cent from other Canadian provinces and two per cent from overseas countries, Webber says. Out of the millions of visitors, approximately 4.9 million tend to stay overnight, which translates into more money flowing directly into the census regions.
“In the categories of food and beverage, accommodations, transportation and recreation $1.1 billion was spent in the province’s resource-based tourism region,” Webber explains.
Tourism industry output sales have totaled $2.7 billion.
To generate those kinds of direct or indirect sales, Webber says the resource-based tourism industry created 17,525 jobs or three per cent of the region’s total employment.
“This represents almost as many jobs as mining does, which is 22,200 (direct jobs) or four per cent,” Webber explains.
Another 29,700 people, or six per cent, are working in the forestry products and services industry.
“Tourism, mining and forestry are key industries in the North,” Webber explains. “All these industries rely on resources.”
“Tourism is considered a major economic industry helping communities in Northern Ontario to diversify their economic base,” Webber adds.
Back in Magnetawan, the Turners are getting ready for another unique weekend. They are organizing a marriage ceremony. That is right. Woodland Echoes Resort is quickly becoming a hot spot for a wedding destination.
“This is the alternative to the Caribbean weddings,” Turner says.
The Turners create shore lunches for the reception dinner and have catered 20 to 30 weddings since they started this initiative.