Waubetek Business Development Corporation: Promoting tourism on Manitoulin Island

Warm Welcome at Manitoulin Hotel and Conference Centre

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Inspired by the First Nations people of Manitoulin Island, the hotel lobby is a contemporary design that incorporates wood, stone and décor that is reflective of First Nations’ traditions.

The Manitoulin Hotel and Conference Centre has been welcoming visitors since first opening its doors in the town of Little Current in 2013. The 58-room facility, which houses conference rooms, a full-service restaurant featuring Aboriginal-themed dining and picturesque views of Lake Huron’s North Channel, is wholly owned and operated by First Nations people.

A loan from the Northeastern Ontario Investment Pool facilitated by Waubetek Business Development Corporation helped secure commercial financing for the $12.5 million construction project. Since the pool was established in 2001, the investment pool partners have financed 202 deals with a combined value of $91,540,257, leveraging more than $288,719,694 from other sources. As of July 2018, these investments have supported the creation of 1,729 new jobs and the maintenance of 4,924 jobs.

Waubetek, an Aboriginal-owned and controlled organization that services First Nations and Aboriginal entrepreneurs in Northeastern Ontario, is one of 24 Northern Ontario Community Futures Development Corporations (CFDC), funded by FedNor. Waubetek offers free business advice and workshops, as well as commercial financing to entrepreneurs and those looking to start a business in its catchment area.

“Our role was to bring the First Nation partners together to develop the project,” explained Dawn Madahbee Leach, General Manager of Waubetek Business Development Corporation, “and to ensure that a viable business model was in place with a business plan developed by industry experts, and solid community support. This initiative was significant because it represented a First Nations project that would benefit the whole regional economy.”

The only full-service premium provider on the island, the hotel enjoys an occupancy rate of 95% during the summer months with a year round rate of 55%. During the peak season, it employs 55 full and part-time employees, 80% of whom are First Nations people.

A Cultural Experience

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The blending of First Nations’ culture with hotel amenities is helping to create a memorable and educational experience for guests.

“There is a genuine pride of ownership here,” revealed Corey Stacinski, General Manager of the Manitoulin Hotel and Conference Centre. “Our First Nation partners are embracing tourism as a means to share their story; they want visitors to take home some traditional knowledge. We also do our part by introducing hotel guests to Indigenous art by displaying their works throughout our facility.”

Stacinski says marketing initiatives in 2017, also funded by Waubetek, have helped boost the hotel’s occupancy rate, doubling restaurant revenue and adding up to an additional 1000 room nights a year over the previous year.

Al MacNevin, Mayor of the Municipality of Northeastern Manitoulin and the Islands, also attested to the hotel’s positive impact on the regional economy.

“This facility can accommodate bus tours, bring more folks to the island and as a result, community event organizations and others in the accommodations business are benefitting from increased traffic to the region,” revealed MacNevin. “Furthermore, First Nations on the island and the North Shore can keep business in town.”

To find out more about realizing your business dream, contact Waubetek Business Development Corporation at 705-285-4175 or your local Community Futures Development Corporation.

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