Affected by COVID-19, outfitters are turning to ecotourism

Ottawa – Influenced by restrictions that prevented their foreign customers from coming into the country, outfitters are turning to ecotourism.

Many have diversified their offerings: they offer their services to monitor wildlife or hike, to keep their businesses alive during the pandemic.

The Canadian Federation of Equipping Societies says many of its members have opened their facilities to Canadians wanting to enjoy the outdoors and observe wildlife, without hunting.

Some outfitters also offer hiking guides on horseback, snowshoes, or snowmobiles.

The absence of American hunters appears to have benefited the wildlife populations. For example: Outfitters say they have observed hundreds, if not thousands, of bears on their land.

Confederation President Dominic Dugerie stressed that the repercussions of COVID-19 have been catastrophic for the country’s fishing sector. Quebec did better because the locals fished there.

He notes that some outfitters, who were dependent on foreign fishermen, “lost 99% of their customers.”

Federal aid, particularly wage subsidies, came to aid the outfitters. Many have turned to ecotourism to survive, welcoming the growing number of Canadians who have taken refuge in the outdoors during the pandemic.

“The trend is immediate diversification due to COVID-19. Many outfitters have opened their facilities to the public. More and more outfitters are offering wildlife monitoring guide services. It’s no longer the hunters themselves. We are seeing more women and more families doing the hunting,” says Mr. Dugri. and fishing.”

According to Scott Ellis, vice president of the Canadian Federation of Apparel Associations, foreign customers are believed to have fallen between 75% to 85% in the country since the start of the pandemic.

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Federal Minister for Economic Development Jodi Hutchings reports that outfitters serving US and European customers were “completely doomed” last year.

The government was able to help them through various programmes, including emergency wage subsidies. Some of these programs have been extended.

Mike McIntosh, founder of Bear With Us, an Ontario organization that cares for orphaned or injured bears, is concerned that Canadian poachers are killing more animals than Americans.

Most counties only allow one catch per fisherman. This must be reported. In Quebec, a hunter is allowed to kill two black bears, one in the spring and one in certain areas in the fall.

Mr. McIntosh doesn’t share some outfitters’ opinion of bears. “COVID has not affected the bear population in Ontario. There are as many, if not more, animals killed by local poachers who started exercising during the pandemic.”

The Ontario Department of Human Resources has postponed its black bear census until 2022 due to the pandemic.

Scott Ellis says he has not noticed a significant increase in the estimated 180,000 bear population in British Columbia. “[Toutefois] In certain sectors, if we had 2,200 customers without proof, we would have 2,200 more bears.”

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