Cree and Quebec government invest $400K for tourism in James Bay

The Quebec government and Tourism Eeyou Istchee are investing more than $400,000 to improve support for local tourism entrepreneurs and tourism services.

'Our huge territory, with its unique natural environments, has a huge tourism potential,' says MP

Members from the Quebec government and Eeyou Istchee Tourism announced Monday an investment more than $400,000 for tourism in the region of James Bay. From left to right, Joshua Iserhoff, Oujé-Bougoumou Chief Curtis Bosum, Eeyou Istchee Tourism executive director Robin McGinley and MP Jean Boucher. (Submitted by Jean Boucher)

The Quebec government and Eeyou Istchee Tourism are investing more than $400,000 to improve support for local tourism entrepreneurs and increase services and activities for visitors in the James Bay region.

The announcement was made Monday in Oujé-Bougoumou, Que., by Robin McGinley, executive director of Eeyou Istchee Tourism and Jean Boucher, MP for the region of Ungava.

"It's important to continue to invest in tourism, because it's really in its infancy," said McGinley.

She said $210,000 of the investment will allow for extending the contract for a resource person who is helping local entrepreneurs in Cree communities develop their businesses.

"Entrepreneurs need help to be able to start their businesses and to create the experiences. We all know that starting a business in the North is expensive," said McGinley.

Some of the new funding is coming from The Quebec Tourism Strategy North of the 49th Parallel, set up in November 2011 as part of a larger economic and resource development plan called Plan Nord.

"Nordic destinations are becoming more popular and are benefiting from economic spinoffs thanks to adventure-seeking tourists," said Boucher.

"Our huge territory, with its unique natural environments, has a huge tourism potential."

Statistics show occupancy rates in the region (including the Cree Nation) — which measure the ratio of occupied space to available space, that can include rental units, hotels, bed and breakfasts and hospitals — were up by 7.3 per cent after the peak period in 2017. The number of visitors to tourism offices were up by 31 per cent over the same period in 2016.

The rest of the new money, or $193,000 coming jointly from province of Quebec and Eeyou Istchee Tourism will go toward helping three projects in the communities of Chisasibi, Nemaska and Wemindji.

In Chisasibi, $110,000 will be used to build a residence for tourists beside the Auberge Maanitaaukimikw hostel, which open in 2016.

Nemaska will spend $65,000 to create a cultural route highlighting the teaching of elders, and Wemindji will put $18,000 toward a plan to offer guided tours of the community.

McGinley said all of the projects will help improve the industry in the region.

"Whether it's a walking tour or a tour which highlights our culture, I think it helps people understand the Cree reality," said McGinley.

"We need to have more activities for people to do when they come. It helps to keep them in the territory longer because there are more things for people to do."