The Cree Nation trust fund, James Bay Eeyou Corporation, is investing more than $5 million into two hotel projects — one in Val-d'Or, Que., and another in Kanata near Ottawa.
"The market potential is very high given the development in both these areas, so it's a good investment," said Abel Bosum, grand chief of the Grand Council of the Crees.
"Secondly these are destinations for Cree people. We can expect Cree people to use [them]."
Bosum said the Cree Nation Government is also looking at these investments as a way to help improve the way hotels in most of the Cree communities are run.
"These hotels are an industry that we could learn from," said Bosum, adding he's hoping Cree partners are able to learn things about marketing, administration and management through the projects.
"We may find new ways of doing things."
One is a $12-million joint venture with the Tawich Development Corporation and MasterBUILT Hotels for an 84-room, 3-star hotel set to open in April in Val-d'Or.
It will be a Microtel Inn and Suites under the Wyndham Hotel banner and it will include a swimming pool, hot tub, sauna and a waterslide. The hotel will also offer a cold and hot breakfast.
"On several occasions I couldn't get a room in Val-d'Or," said Tony Gull, president of Tawich Development Corporation based in Wemindji, where the idea originated.
Gull said he made a joke with his staff at the time that they should build a hotel.
The project partners are hoping to get the hotel open in time for an April Cree hockey tournament in the community.
"I used to be a minor hockey coach and we always used to struggle to find rooms in Val-d'Or," said Gull. "That's kind of an inspiration."
The project planned for Kanata is also a partnership with an established hotel chain. Details are still being worked out, but it will be a similar sized family hotel located near Cabela's Canada, a massive 70,000-square-foot hunting, fishing and outdoor gear supplier, which opened in Kanata last fall.
This isn't the first time the Cree Nation has jumped into the hotel business. CreeCo, a holding company for a group of Cree-owned companies, including Air Creebec, is a 50 per cent partner in the Quality Inn and Suites in Val-d'Or, which has won a number of awards since it opened.