Travel Manitoba announced today that 50 tourism businesses will be supported in their efforts to recover from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic by adapting to changing customer expectations and offering innovative experiences.
The Tourism Innovation and Recovery Fund was launched last November as a one time support initiative designed to increase the number of enticing tourism experiences in the province and support existing attractions in recovering from the impacts of the pandemic.
Over 120 applications were received for the program, under one of two streams: Experience Enhancement, which offered up to $15,000 in funding to operators of an existing experience to improve their offering, and New Experience Development, which provided up to $25,000 in funding to enable tourism operators to create new experiences. Initially the program was budgeted at $500,000, but as a result of demand, over $1 million in project support will be provided. Twenty six percent of the program funding went to Indigenous owned tourism businesses, exceeding the original target of 15 per cent.
One of those recipients is the Kikiwak Inn, which will be using the $25,000 in funding to offer northern tipi camping in Opaskwayak Cree Nation, located near The Pas, approximately 600 km north of Winnipeg. Guests will be able to stay in one of two 22 foot tipis in the summer.
“We want to gain more tourism attractions to the North and we’re hoping that this opens up more opportunities for us for experiences that include fishing, hiking, canoeing and much more that is offered in the North”, said Jade Richards, Assistant General Manager of the Kikiwak Inn. “The idea has been discussed for awhile now but this funding was critical to make the dream come true”.
Manitoba’s Minister of Sport, Culture and Heritage, the Honourable Andrew Smith, said the fund is a means to help the tourism industry recover. “Tourism is a crucial part of Manitoba’s economy”, Smith said. “Prior to the pandemic, the tourism sector supported over 20,000 full time jobs and contributed over $300 million to provincial revenue. By increasing the number of quality tourism experiences through this program, Manitoba is able to be more competitive on the national and international stage.”
Projects receiving support are located throughout the province and are expected to provide an economic benefit to businesses and the province by increasing visitation, visitor spending, and visitors’ length of stay in Manitoba.
Cat Eye Outfitter will use their $14,000 in funding to offer anglers a fully equipped winter camping experience on Lake Winnipeg.
“It’s wonderful to give people an experience on the lake that is manageable and safe, and at the same time, is transformative for them. You see changes in people when they see the aurora borealis, they hear the ice forming, and they learn about the history of the lake and the surrounding communities. They see what a wonderful resource we have”, said Daniel Kiazyk, owner of Cat Eye Outfitters. “It’s especially important now. People need to try something new and unique that is close to home”.
Colin Ferguson, President and CEO of Travel Manitoba, said while the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has been felt in all sectors, the travel, tourism and hospitality industry has been hit harder than most, was the first to feel its effects and will likely be among the last to fully recover.
“The Tourism Innovation and Recovery Fund not only helps existing operations to recover from the pandemic, but also fosters the creation of new experiences for us to offer. Special consideration was given to projects that align with Manitoba’s high interest sectors, like winter, Indigenous, water-based experiences, Francophone and human rights education”.
A new Manitoba Tourism Strategy, launched in July and led by a collaboration of the Government of Manitoba, the Manitoba Chambers of Commerce and Travel Manitoba, has a target to grow visitor spending by 50 per cent to reach $2.5 billion by 2030.
Travel Manitoba is a Crown Corporation under provincial legislation that leads and stimulates sustainable tourism growth in Manitoba’s $1.6 billion pre-pandemic tourism industry. In partnership with the tourism industry, the agency is responsible for tourism marketing, visitor information services, research and public information.