The head of a tourism lobby group in Ontario says the industry needs to re-invent itself in northern Ontario to survive.
The executive director of Nature and Outdoor Tourism Ontario said about 700 operators in Ontario have closed since 2005.
The organization tracks the number of hunting lodges, camping resorts and outfitters in the province and lobbies on their behalf.
Doug Reynolds, who will lose his job as executive director in the new year as the organization tries to cut costs, said the province’s tourism woes are caused in part by a high Canadian dollar and the recession.
But he also noted many businesses have not adapted to a changing clientele.
"And frankly, a lot of our traditional clients are just getting older," he said.
"As an industry, perhaps we've not adapted to the expectations of new markets as quickly as they might have."
'Good mattresses, 32" flat screen TVs'
Scott Nelson, who owns and operates Glen Echo cottages near North Bay, said he has experienced the change first hand.
Nelson said he's no longer catering to the rugged outdoorsman — but to middle-aged working families instead.
"That means you offer them good mattresses and 32" flat screen TVs with satellite and wireless [high speed] internet."
Nelson admitted it’s not an experience all operators can afford to offer.
But he said operators must draw new customers or become casualties of a shifting market.
Reynolds agreed and said the future is bleak for northern Ontario's outdoor outfitters if they don't find a way to cater to a new audience.
"Younger folks are not replacing them in the same numbers," he said.
"And, as an industry, perhaps we've not adapted to the expectations of new markets as quickly as we might have."
Reynolds said the province also needs to do a better job marketing outdoor tourism in northern Ontario.