Pandemic boosts summer tourism for some Manitoba resorts

Travel restrictions and the desire to get outdoors propelled some businesses in Manitoba to have some of their best summer seasons in many years.

Staycations help some businesses have near record bookings

Despite the cancellation of major events such as Gimli's Icelandic Festival, Manitoban's thronged to the beaches, trails and lakes. (Jeff Stapleton/CBC)

Some Manitoba businesses were spared the financial clouds of the COVID-19 health crisis this summer.

Now past the Labour Day weekend, many resorts in the province are still adding up the numbers, but the traffic would show above average or even record levels for some.

Business, one resort owner says, hasn't been this strong since the 1980s.

"It was busy right through. I don't think there was a week that wasn't really busy," says Shaun Harbottle, who co-owns Crescent Beach Cottages in West Hawk Lake.

Harbottle attributes having more guests to two factors.

"First of all, we had an old fashion Manitoba summer finally, you know, lots of heat. So I think that helped. But it was also everybody was staying in the province. They weren't leaving," Hartbottle told CBC News.

The same bumper season happened for Falcon Beach Ranch owners Devin and Kendra Imrie.

"Well, it started off, we were pretty nervous in March and April and pretty much shut down. And then once things opened up in May we got summer a couple of months early and things were busy right from the get-go," Kendra Imrie said.

Imrie concurs with Harbottle, the travel restrictions made a big difference — that and the desire to get outside.

"Most of our customers are from Manitoba. People wanted to be outdoors and our business is all outdoors. So it was a perfect fit," the resort owner said.

The strong showing looks like it will continue after the temperature drops.

"We're already getting bookings into the fall, into the winter...weekends in January, February are already full. So, yeah, it's looking strong already," Imrie said.

One of three log cabins available to rent at Falcon Beach Ranch. (Emily Christie)

Crowds headed to the big lake

The town of Gimli on Lake Winnipeg fared well, despite seeing critical crowd-drawing attractions cancelled due to the pandemic.

The Icelandic Festival —"Islendingadagurinn" and the Gimli Film Festival were forced to go virtual and suspend in-person activities.

The town's mayor says the traffic "could have been worse."

"It was actually very busy, considering all the events that were cancelled, but there were a lot of people coming out to rural communities because they weren't going out of province," said Lynn Greenberg.

Greenberg says for the most part visitors minded the proper physical distancing, hand washing and other rules to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Winter, Greenberg says, is "still a question mark," as the effects of the pandemic remain unknown.

The mayor of the lake-side town hopes a vaccine comes soon, lifts the restrictions and removes the uncertainty from the economy.