All-season road construction means busy times for Whati motel

Staff at the motel in Whati, N.W.T., are preparing for an influx of guests who are coming to the community to work on the all season road.

Crew members working on the road will keep the motel booked throughout the coming months, says manager

'It's not booked to capacity often, but we do get a steady stream of customers,' says Johnathan Vandal, who has been the manager at the motel in Whati since November 2018. (Emily Blake/CBC )

Staff at the motel in Whati, N.W.T., are preparing for an influx of guests with construction of an all-season road to the community, which is set to begin soon.

Johnathan Vandal, who has been the manager of the motel since November, says it stays busy with guests who are mainly contractors or government employees working in the community short-term.

Just last week, a heavy vehicle technician from Hay River, N.W.T., arrived at the motel. 

"It's very busy," Vandal said. "It's not booked to capacity often, but we do get a steady stream of customers that come in. Usually at a time we'll get maybe five or six people throughout the week. So it's a lot of work. A lot of invoicing." 

This month, the motel is booked solid from June 14 onwards with crew members in town working on the all-season road from Highway 3, the main highway from Yellowknife. The road crew will also be staying at the motel throughout the coming months, Vandal said. 

The eight-room, 15-bed motel opened in April 2018. It's operated by the Tlicho Investment Corporation, the investment arm of the Tlicho government. The corporation also operates the bed and breakfast in Whati.

The eight-room, 15-bed motel opened in April 2018. (Emily Blake/CBC )

The motel's restaurant is run by Alice Romie, the primary cook and housekeeper.

"She can do some pretty, pretty nice stuff in the kitchen," Vandal said.

Many of the rooms' walls are adorned with paintings by artist Archie Beaverho.

Vandal said visitors have had positive things to say about the motel, which is located on the shore of Lac La Martre. 

"They like the view, that's for sure," he said, adding they also like the food. 

Many of the motel's walls are adorned with artwork by Archie Beaverho. (Emily Blake/CBC )

Change coming

Whati is located roughly 170 kilometres northwest of Yellowknife. It's accessible by road when the winter road is open, but during the summer months, the community is fly-in only. 

The all-season road will change that.

Once completed, the 97-kilometre, two-lane, gravel road will connect Whati to Highway 3 year-round.

Construction on the road is set to begin this fall. Many Whati residents anticipate that once the road is finished, which is expected to happen by 2020, the community could see a lot of changes.

"We'll get a lot more people that's for sure, because it'll be cheaper, coming to town," Vandal said, adding he hopes it will also lower prices in the community. 

The Whati government has also been preparing for a possible tourism boom once the road opens. In November 2018, Whati's senior administrative officer and council members attended NWT Tourism's annual general meeting in Yellowknife.

The twin falls in Whati. (Emily Blake/CBC )

Lac La Martre already attracts tourists who are interested in lake trout and northern pike fishing. They mostly stay at The Lodge at Lac La Martre, which is located on an island near the centre of the lake that is accessible only by float plane. But Vandal said some tourists will also stay at the motel.

"The fishing up here is great," he said, adding Whati also has beautiful scenery like the twin falls.