The Łútsël K’é Dene First Nation’s Frontier Lodge has a packed season ahead – and hopes to find ways to squeeze in more visitors from the NWT.
General manager Corey Myers says the lodge, on the edge of the Thaidene Nëné National Park Reserve and protected area, expects back-to-back record years, describing “pent-up demand” since the pandemic.
Last year was the lodge’s first year without public health restrictions since the First Nation assumed ownership in 2019 – a travel pause that staff used to make sure Frontier Lodge reflects the Indigenous culture of the area.
Myers says a full renovation of the lodge “really helped and gave our clients something to look forward to,” particularly guests who have been coming back to the lodge and Łútsël K’é for decades.
“We thought it was important to bring the local culture into the lodge, so even guests that are just coming for fishing – they only want to fish, that’s their priority – they still get the experience, they still get the knowledge, they still understand that it is not just a fishing destination, it is home to the Łútsël K’é Dene First Nation,” said Myers.
Cultural signage, archival photography, and stories relayed by Elders now appear in every guest cabin and in the lodge’s lounge areas and dining room.
“We themed each guest cabin after a culturally significant place within Thaidene Nëné,” said Myers, using an NWT government funding program named Grit, which stands for “growth and recovery by investing in tourism.”
“We held community meetings in Łútsël K’é with local Elders to decide which seven areas we wanted to highlight within the park,” Myers continued, “and then we themed our guest cabins based on that, so we really tell the story of the park from the local First Nations perspective, which instantly gives every client that background story and kind-of inspires them to ask questions and want to learn more.”
He says those touches “ultimately add value that maybe wasn’t there prior, adding local culture back to the business.”
“It’s important to tell the story of the lodge and the place.”
The work is paying off. The lodge is already booking into 2024, Myers said this month.
“There is very, very limited space this summer,” he added.
Even so, the lodge is pushing to attract more Northwest Territories residents to come and explore the area for themselves.
Frontier Lodge has begun running women’s wellness retreats – the next will take place in the first week of September – and offers experiences like fishing, on-the-land lunches, a chance to see muskox and moose, and boating and hiking.
“We’re making a push to try to get more northern residents to come experience the park and check out Thaidene Nëné,” said Myers.
“That’s something we’d like to find a way to do. I’d love to fill all our remaining spots – however few – with northern residents.”
This article appears as part of a paid partnership between Cabin Radio, NWT Tourism and the Government of the Northwest Territories Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment celebrating Tourism Week 2023 in the Northwest Territories. To explore more, visit Spectacular NWT on Youtube.