Tourist traffic down at info booth but increasing

The Welcome Centre, built to provide information for the travelling public, opened for business for the 2020 season last Friday and Northeast Town Mayor Al MacNevin, second from right, dropped by to visit the bright, newly painted centre and welcome two of the students, who will be part of the staff this summer, to their new important positions. They are, second from left, Regan Hutchinson and, at the right, Morgan Hall. Welcome Centre manager Lisa Hallaert is on the left. The Welcome Centre is located on Highway 6, the first stop on Manitoulin past the swing bridge. It will be staffed seven days a week, 10 am to 8 pm during the summer months.

LITTLE CURRENT – The Manitoulin Welcome Centre in Little Current has opened for its seasonal schedule and, while traffic is down this year, tourists continue to visit the Island, though they have tended to come from closer-to-home origins this year.

“It was slow at the start but it’s been picking up. We’ve seen people from all over the place, but in Ontario mostly,” said Regan Hutchinson, one of the summer student staffers who operates the welcome centre in the summer months.

“We’ve seen lots from Toronto and some from London, Ottawa, Niagara Falls, Orillia, and a couple from Montreal and Vancouver,” she said.

Many tourists have set their sights domestically this summer to explore some of the overlooked gems within Canada, including the largest freshwater island in the world. The natural world has factored strongly into people’s travel desires, according to Regan.

“A lot of people have been asking about places to go hiking. Lots have been looking to get out of their houses and find things they can do without worrying about the COVID situation. There’s a lot of campers passing through, too, and people asking about beaches, food and local things,” she said.

Manitoulin Island recently entered the third stage of Ontario’s reopening plan, coinciding with an uptick in visitors. The third stage allows for indoor gatherings of up to 50 people but the welcome centre has capped entrants at six per time.

“People are pretty understanding. They have to wear a mask but we can’t turn away anyone, and we do hand out masks to people if they need one,” said Regan.

The numbers of welcome centre visitors from Sudbury has been relatively small and the most exotic of visitors have come in from Ireland and Germany, though these have been very few and far between.