• Thu. Aug 11th, 2022

NOBA 2021: Manitoulin Hotel and Conference Center is Company of the Year (16-50 employees)

ByLinda W. Smith

Dec 1, 2021

Owned by the region’s First Nations, the Little Current facility grows and enriches the region’s tourism industry

Nearly a decade after its opening, the Manitoulin Hotel & Conference Center is leaving a lasting mark on the region’s vibrant tourism industry while stimulating the prosperity of the region’s Indigenous communities.

Located in Little Current on Manitoulin Island, the hotel has 58 rooms – including 47 standard rooms, four suites and seven business / wheelchair accessible suites – a ballroom and a 5,600-foot conference center square, an outdoor swimming pool and a 40-patio where visitors can admire the view of the North Channel of Georgian Bay.

North46 Restaurant, which offers fine and casual dining for breakfast and dinner, incorporates local ingredients into its dishes, with an emphasis on Anishinaabe food: pan-seared Manitoulin whitefish and Anishinaabe tacos are among the favorites. a crowd. The restaurant can also host events.

Built with wood and stone from neighboring communities, the decor incorporates elements of First Nations culture and design. The distinguishing feature of the hotel is its conical lobby, designed to resemble a traditional Indigenous tipi and incorporating six large pillars to reflect the Seven Teachings of the Grandfathers.

A particular point of pride for the company is that in 2019, the hotel employed 78 people, 80% of whom were identified as First Nations.

Although the COVID-19 pandemic has not been favorable to the hospitality industry, the hotel recently took an unexpected step: the years 2020 and 2021 were the best revenue-generating months in the history of the hotel, noted Corey Stacinski, general manager of the establishment.

“COVID has put the brakes on a lot of things, but we keep moving forward and going up, and overall we are blown away by the success we have had despite all the challenges of the past two years.” , did he declare.

A message from the sponsor:

When it opened in 2013, the property was the first new hotel to be built on Manitoulin in a century. But planning for the project actually started six years earlier with an idea put forward by the Great Spirit Circle Trail (GSCT), a former Indigenous-owned tour company that specializes in designing authentic Indigenous experiences.

The touristy Manitoulin Island, located in the upper part of Lake Huron, has a permanent population of about 13,000 people, but it increases dramatically during the summer months when visitors flock to the island to camp, do from the boat and frolic on its many popular beaches.

Over the years, the GSCT has built a reputation as a go-to operator for travelers from all over the world looking for distinctive cultural exchanges within the indigenous communities of the island.

Believing it could build on its success, GSCT had the intuition that by providing visitors with top-notch accommodations, they could stay on the island longer, increasing their local spending and helping to publicize what the region has to offer.

“We realize that what is good for Manitoulin Island in terms of attractions and tourism components benefits the hotel,” said Stacinski.

Taking a unique approach to ownership, the organization invited First Nations communities in the region to become co-owners of the business. In the end, six joined GSCT on the project: Aundeck Omni Kaning, M’Chigeeng, Sagamok, Sheshegwaning, Whitefish River and Wiikwemikoong.

Each partner contributed a portion of the $ 12.5 million prize, and additional funding was secured from Indigenous Business Canada, Indigenous Affairs and Northern Development Canada, and the Northern Heritage Fund Corporation. ‘Ontario.

At first, there was talk of partnering with an established brand, but in the end, stakeholders left with the belief that a unique “Manitoulin” banner would do better with visitors to the region.

Nine years later, the hotel is very popular and has earned a reputation for quality accommodation, food and hospitality.

Working with GSCT, the hotel has found a niche in providing guides for coach tours, where visitors can experience an onboard tale of Manitoulin’s rich history and a glimpse of the region.

They have also developed exclusive itineraries for independent travelers, families and groups, with activities ranging from guided nature hikes to traditional percussion and teachings, a traditional indigenous feast, and more.

Much of that activity has come to a halt in the last two years of the pandemic, Stacinski said, but the hotel has made up for it in other ways.

At the start of the pandemic, the hotel became the preferred accommodation for essential workers traveling to the region, he noted, and last summer it was a preferred stopover for visitors from outside of the area that felt safe again.

“We hope things will get back to where they were with bus tours, weddings and group tours; However, in the same breath, we are aware that we are doing our best, and we have not had any weddings, we have not taken any bus tours, we have not taken any heavily discounted travel groups ”, Stacinski said.

“I find it very interesting from a higher level of analysis. “

Currently developing its very first strategic plan, the hotel is exploring the possibility of incorporating an educational element into its services.

Stacinski said this could involve providing indigenous youth in the hospitality and tourism sectors with training and placement opportunities where they can hone their skills before starting their careers – or even their own businesses – in the industry. industry that really put Manitoulin on the map.

“We plan to use our four walls to the fullest of our capabilities and not just to be a hotel and a convention center. “

Since their launch in 1986, the Northern Ontario Business Awards have grown into the largest annual gathering of its kind in Northern Ontario. These awards serve to increase the visibility and influence of businesses in the North and to bring peer recognition to the business leaders who create prosperity and economic growth.


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