It's a tough year for outfitters, including Wayne Clark Clark's Northern Lights resort on Highway 105.

Another quiet day for staff at Clark's Northern Lights Resort off Highway 105.

"We had the busiest summer we'd ever had all booked up," he said Friday.

"So, what we'd do is try to push out guests later in the season. We started pushing them into June and July, then August and September. Now we're coming to the end of the road," he noted. 

With the ongoing cases of COVID-19 in the U-S prompting a prolonged closure of the international border -- and the continuation of public health measures in northwestern Ontario -- Clark isn't expecting many visitors for the fall hunting season. This means he'll be 20 months without income, by the time next spring rolls around.

There's been an announcement from Queen's Park of some relief measures, including a break on provincial fees.

"They're going to waive our outpost fees for this year, our land use permit fees, which for us is a fair amount, because we have a lot of outposts. I'm thankful for that. However, it's a very small drop in the bucket," Clark said.

"I wish more of the politicians would actually visit the camps that are in a bad situation," he said.

While Manitoba visitors can help Kenora operators, those in the eastern part of the district are far more dependent on the American market, Clark added. Out of about 3,000 visitors, he says they may have about four parties from Canada.

The Northern Lights resort has 30 fly-in outposts and two drive-in resorts, which are served by 12 airplanes. Their insurance bill alone is about $190,000 even though the cabins are empty and airplanes aren't being used. Clark noted their business interruption insurance isn't covering a pandemic.

"We're in tough shape," he acknowledged.

More than 40 per cent of the outfitters in the Sunset Country tourism association aren't expected to bother opening for business this year. With more than 200 operators, they would usually generate about $450 million a year in revenue.

They held a rally in Vermilion Bay in early June, in an effort to draw attention to their situation. However, they're finding it's the same situation across the country, with many resorts and tourism businesses depend on the reopening of the American border. 

With cases of COVID-19 continuing to climb in the U.S., it's difficult to see the border reopening in time for hunting season this fall. Even if it did, the public health measures related to social distancing and self-isolation periods would make it very difficult, Clark added.

As a result, staff at Northern Lights have had a difficult time trying to accommodate guests, as they've tried to deal with the shifting situation. This has included trying to delay visits for a later time period, as well as having to keep deposits for guests unable to attend, due to the border closure.

"There's a lot of places I fly over the docks haven't moved, the boats aren't moved. The gates are crossed. The driveways never opened. There's nothing to open up for," he said, noting his airplanes are still on the shore and his docks are empty.

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