Ontario campgrounds that rely on Manitoban business face uncertain summer

Sun Valley Resort, west of Kenora, relies on traffic from Manitoba each summer. Courtesy: Laura Vartel

Several northwestern Ontario vacation spots are relying on Manitobans to come visit this summer, but it’s still unclear what travel restrictions might be in place.

Laura Bartel, co-owner of Sun Valley Resort west of Kenora, said about 90 per cent of her guests come from Manitoba.

“We’re hopeful July and August will be good,” Bartel said. “We’re expecting the border will open.”

But because she can’t be too sure, she hasn’t been taking deposits.

Bartel said she’s in a tricky spot, trying to book Manitobans without making promises she doesn’t know she’ll be able to keep.

“Guests want to book family reunions, they want large parties, people are missing being together, people want to get out to the cabin and meet up with friends and with restrictions in place it’s really hard to guarantee any of those things,” Bartel said.

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Ontario’s borders with Manitoba and Quebec have been closed for non-essential travel since April. The order is supposed to expire June 16 but the Ontario government has not yet said if it will be extended for another 14 days.

Laura Loohuizen, co-owner of Kenora Bed ‘n’ Bale, is counting on the border checkpoints wrapping up.

“All of our seasonal bookings for campsites are people from Manitoba and they’re just waiting to be allowed to come,” Loohuizen said.

Loohuizen celebrated the soft opening of her ‘glamping-style’ spot last year. She said her business plan factored in the large client base from Manitoba.

“Hopefully the border opens soon and we get our onslaught visitors who are anxious to have a nice, safe holiday,” she said.

Read more: Planning to travel this summer? Here’s what you should know

Kyle Jones, owner of Dogtooth Lake Resort southeast of Kenora, said his whole season is relying on Manitobans being able to travel as they did last year.

Jones’ family fishing lodge typically fills up to 85 per cent of reservations with American tourists, but because the Canada-U.S. border has been closed for more than a year, he said Manitobans have been keeping his business alive.

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“As long as they open the Manitoba border, I can rent to people from Manitoba and that will allow me to earn a little bit of income,” Jones said.

The federal government said last week it is looking to ease quarantine travel requirements for fully vaccinated Canadians by early July.

In Manitoba, Premier Brian Pallister recently announced fully vaccinated residents and non-residents can travel in and out of the province without having to quarantine.

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