Local tourism initiatives key to Algoma recovery

Naturally Superior Adventures in Wawa and Blaq Bear Eco Adventure Routes near Goulais River have benefited greatly thanks to a boom in local tourism, with both companies seeing more Algoma residents passing through than ever before. July 2/21 (Christian D'Avino/CTV News Northern Ontario)

While the north's tourism sector has been troubled by the pandemic, two companies near the Sault are recovering well.

Naturally Superior Adventures in Wawa and Blaq Bear Eco Adventure Routes near Goulais River have benefited greatly thanks to a boom in local tourism, with both companies seeing more Algoma residents passing through than ever before.

"In previous years, we had a lot of people in my age class, sort of 50s through 60s," said David Wells, Owner of Naturally Superior Adventures. "Now we're beginning to see more younger people who are trying to reconnect with nature."

Situated along Lake Superior, Wells said his company focuses on what he calls "silent sports" - kayaking and canoeing.

He also offers four bed and breakfast style rooms for guests and even the occasional wedding.

While the pandemic caused some nervousness as it began, Wells said he's managed to do relatively well so far and is especially booked for this summer.

"In Wawa, it's true, we have had a bit of a rough go for a number of years," he said. "But I think it's also fair to say, I think we've turned the corner and in the next few years, Wawa is going to get very busy."

For Carole Blaquiere, the owner of Blaq Bear Eco Adventure Routes, she said her bookings have actually increased from where they were in 2019.

"We're pretty happy, there's a couple of days, I think there's one week left in July that's available and a couple of days here in there in August and September,'" Blaquiere said.

Blaquiere offers a variety of hiking and mountain biking trail tours, with the crown Jewel being the 10 km hike to "Norm's Cabin," a lone cabin situated Bone lake, where guests can stay overnight.

She said she previously offered tours of downtown Sault Ste. Marie as well, but put them on hold due to ongoing pandemic restrictions.

"For us, Norm's cabin has become a bit of a destination for mountain biking activities," she said. "That's really taken off this year and we trying to keep that going."

While both companies are doing well, that's not entirely the case for Algoma's entire tourism sector.

According to the tourism group Algoma Country, the ongoing border shutdown has really hampered local groups, particularly fly-in fishing outfitters.

"Hyper local tourism is a good start to kind of get things going," said Rob LaRue, Marketing manager for Algoma Country.

"You know, coming out of the third wave, I think there's a lot of pent-up demand for tourism activities, so we're definitely excited to see more local interest."