Pandemic takes toll on Manitoba outfitters

“We understand why these health measures are taken but it is a hard pill to swallow when you have to shut down your business.”

Thompson Citizen
May 26, 2020

Manitoba fishing lodges
— Bakers Narrow Lodge near Flin Flon: every booking cancelled.

Many outfitters and fishing lodges in Northern Manitoba have cancelled their bookings this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Lodge owner Jerry Dunlop said he had to cancel five of their 12 weeks in the season this year.

“We understand why these health measures are taken but it is a hard pill to swallow when you have to shut down your business,” he said May 13. “We cancelled one-third of our business and if we do lose all 12 weeks, we will lose our income for the full year. There are a lot of industries that are going to be hit and we are one of the businesses that will be facing a major loss for the year.”

Dunlop owns a lodge on Lake Waskaiowaka which is situated on the Little Churchill River in Northern Manitoba.

“It is a tough time right now and the uncertainty is the hardest thing. Border restrictions and its information change so often, making it hard to plan and when you are in this kind of work, you always need a schedule,” he said.

Bakers Narrows Lodge owner and manager Peg Baynton said her business lost over $95,000 because of COVID-19.

“Our year was severely impacted by the pandemic for ice fishing. We had a full slate of bookings but we had to cancel all of them and lost six weeks’ worth of revenue,” she said. “We lost all kinds of people who decided not to come. Some guests decided that they are going to come next year rather than this year because of the uncertainty.”

Baynton said the lodge is unsure whether they can host their guests from the United States and from out of the province in the summer due to border closures.

“We would like for the government to give a date on when the restrictions would be lifted so we can plan ahead,” she said.

“Guests are frustrated because the lodge is unable to provide them with answers as to when the borders are going to open. This is putting us in a very precarious position because we do not want to turn them away but we don’t know if we will be able to host them.”

Manitoba Lodges and Outfitters Association executive director Brian Kotak said a third of the lodges are reporting a loss of 50 per cent to 100 per cent of their annual revenue.

“Another third of the lodges have already lost 25 per cent to 50 per cent of their annual revenue. Even though this is only the early stages of the pandemic, things are not looking very good,” he said.

“Saying that, our outfitters and lodges in Manitoba are not willing to give up and will be back next year. They are already making plans for a record-breaking year so they are optimistic that they will get through this and that next year will be better.”

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