Officials with Wikwemikong Tourism say they are ecstatic over their recent win at the International Indigenous Tourism Conference in Winnipeg and they are coming home to Manitoulin with some new hardware – the ‘Exceptional Industry Leader and Original Star’ award.
“It feels great, it’s a culmination of years of hard work so it definitely feels good to be recognized on a national level,” said tourism manager Luke Wassegijig.
Wassegijig said it was definitely a team effort in what they’ve been able to achieve these last few years, from management down to the front-line staff.
“It’s about the people that are on the front lines, our administration staff, our guides, our coordination staff, they’re really the key to the core of our operation so we’re thankful for them,” he said.
Wassegijig told CTV News he believes one of the key things that was recognized was their ability to rebuild after the crushing impacts of COVID-19 on the tourism industry.
He said Wiikwemkoong had to deal with several challenges that come in our communities didn’t necessarily have to face.
“COVID for many operators was difficult, especially for Indigenous operators. We were under a different set of rules, when the rest of the province was open … there was a lot of times we remained locked down,” said Wassegijig.
“So for us it was a very difficult long two years but coming out of COVID was a real testament as to how well we were preparing ourselves for the reopen. It was great because we saw our best year ever in 2022 in terms of tour sales and tour volume.”
The tourism professional said they attribute a lot of their success to working with the cruise industry, which also reported a record year in the Great Lakes over the summer.
Wassegijig said he’s looking forward to what they have planned in the year ahead.
Officials said this season they will be focusing on local partnerships to enhance festivals including Wiikwemkoong’s Annual Cultural Festival and the Manitoulin Ice Showdown.
For more updates and event details, follow Wikwemikong Tourism on Twitter.
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