Yellow Dog Lodge in the North Slave will officially be welcoming visitors from across Canada this summer.
Owner Gordon Gin told Cabin Radio he received final approval from the Chief Public Health Officer on Thursday, making his lodge one of the first to get the green light in the territory.
The news comes a month after the territorial government announced “remote tourism operators” could apply to welcome guests from other parts of the country.
“This wasn’t just something that happened overnight,” Gin said of the application process. “A lot of work and a lot of blood, sweat, and tears went into the approval for these remote tourism operators.”
A number of restrictions and rules have been put in place to form guidelines for operators.
Visitors must be able to isolate on-site and have almost no contact with surrounding communities or other visitors. Operators are also responsible for facilitating transportation directly to and from the location, carrying out a screening process, and coordinating food and supplies so visitors stay isolated from one another.
Guests must file a self-isolation plan to the GNWT before arrival.
“There’s a lot of logistics – it’s new for all of us,” Gin said. “Hopefully, there’ll be not too many hiccups, but I suspect there’ll be some difficulties just going through all the logistics.
“Another thing that we have to take into account is if somebody did get sick, what happens then? Well, the operator had to prove to the Office of Public Health that we have the means to isolate the Covid-infected persons away from the other people inside the lodge … there is a very strict protocol that we have to follow.”
‘A new beginning’
Gin and his wife Kathy have owned and operated Yellow Dog Lodge since 2006. According to Gin, the couple welcomes anywhere from 175 to 200 guests in a year, with the majority coming from across Canada and internationally.
However, with the Covid-19 restrictions in place last summer, Gin said the lodge only welcomed 20 to 30 guests, all from the NWT. Business dropped 85 percent.
“We re-financed the lodge, took out some more loans, and took advantage of a number of programs offered by the federal government,” Gin explained.
“I leveraged CanNor, I leveraged the GNWT for certain grant money, and of course, it came out of my own pocket. I think I dipped into my own RSP savings and put in about $50,000 of my own personal money.”
Now that he is able to welcome guests, Gin’s first order of business will be contacting those who were booked for 2020 and re-scheduling them for the summer.
“Guests, they’re fantastic,” he said. “They understand the process, and they were very agreeable to those terms. They know their impact to the communities, and they will comply to all these restrictions that have been asked to be put on.”
When asked if he is looking forward to opening, Gin said: “I’m always excited to operate the lodge.
“This gives us an opportunity to get back on our feet, re-establish our relationships with our clients, and start to begin a new chapter … this will give us a chance to test out some of our theories and be more resilient and stronger.
“Hopefully by 2022, we will be in a great position where we’ve got fully qualified and trained staff to handle the expected onslaught of a number of guests that are coming in and hopefully enjoying the comforts of our lodge.”