Travel Manitoba’s New Consultant A Lifelong Northerner

Mike Goodyear, who lives in Churchill and is from Lynn Lake, is the person responsible for helping the tourism industry in Northern Manitoba grow.

Travel Manitoba has a new point of contact to boost tourism in the north of the province.

Mike Goodyear, who took over from Al McLauchlan, was with Thompson in December as part of an introductory tour and said the role would suit his skills and background.

Goodyear is originally from Lynn Lake and has lived in Churchill for the past 22 years. He was Executive Director of the Churchill Northern Studies Center until 2014 and has also worked at the Community Museum. He is also a pilot and has worked in air taxi operations as well as remote hunting and fishing huts in the north.

Goodyear started the job late last year.

“To be honest, I wasn’t looking for the job,” he said. “Someone suggested, ‘Why don’t you put your name in the hat?’ and so did I. It matched the work I had previously done at the research center. I see this as a bit of an extension of that, just being able to share with people what the north has to offer and what I’ve been through over the years.”

His Churchill roots might make some people wary, Goodyear admits, as some people think the Hudson Bay harbor town, known for its polar bears and beluga whales, gets more than enough marketing attention from Travel Manitoba, but he emphasizes that his job is to help tour operators and communities throughout the North, from Grand Rapids to.

“It basically acts as a single point of contact for Travel Manitoba between the organization and the communities and the operators,” says Goodyear. “Working with existing operators, working with new operators who want to get into tourism, being that person so that when there are questions about what’s going on in the north, there’s someone you know somewhere to answer them. Actually be a driver and an advocate.”

Different communities in the north are at different points on the spectrum when it comes to attracting tourists.

“Some communities have a well-known pull, an anchor product like polar bears,” Goodyear says. “Other communities, there isn’t necessarily one thing they’re known for. Thompson is different. It’s a regional center, there’s tons of restaurants and accommodations and things like that, but once you get into one of the other communities, there’s just not the accommodations, there aren’t the restaurants and eateries.”

While tourism can be an important part of a diversified local and regional economy, it is not a panacea.

“I’ve lived in the north all my life and unfortunately I’ve lived in places where the economy has evaporated, where the mine has closed,” Goodyear says. “It doesn’t help if someone comes into the community and says, ‘All your problems are solved by tourism’, because that’s not the case. Every healthy community should have industry. It must have development. It must have other things. Yes, some people can get involved in tourism, it can be a way to diversify economies, but it won’t solve everything.”

One bright spot in the COVID-19 pandemic that has hit Manitoba for nearly two years is that people are discovering new parts of their home province, McLauchlan says.

“One thing that southern Manitobans has shown is that the north is here, it’s motorable and it’s fantastic to vacation in northern Manitoba. One of the lodge owners in The Pas said we’ve never had a year like this before.’

But to support that pandemic-related domestic tourism bump, people need to make it better known.

“We don’t blow our horns up north,” says McLauchlan. “We don’t tell people what we have here and we have to start with that because we have everything the Whiteshell has here. See how many people enter the Whiteshell. We have the same here. We have world class fishing, we have world class snowmobiles, we have world class lodges, polar bear watching, everything, but we don’t tell people that.”

It’s sometimes thought that it takes a major attraction to bring visitors in, but according to McLauchlan, who remains involved in Northern Manitoba’s snowmobile strategy, that’s not the case. It is not unimportant to take advantage of the long winters and abundant snow in the region to entice a few snowmobiles to come up for a weekend.

“They’re renting two hotel rooms, two lodge rooms or something, they’re going to buy gas, they’re going to buy food, they’re going to buy all this stuff. Suddenly you’re looking at $1,000 a weekend, so multiply that by whatever, 100, 200, holy geez, you start to get a lot of money coming into a community or a region.”

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