It has been a banner year for resort and tourism operations across Manitoulin Island and the boost comes none too soon for many Island businesses that have been hammered by a perfect storm of bad news for nearly a decade.
The economic downturn in 2008 hit our American neighbours hard, much harder than it did here in much of Ontario and Canada in general, truth be told. But the fallout from the global recession hit the North pretty hard, particularly in regions where the tourism dollar plays a disproportionate role in the local economy.
As any business person on the Island can attest, the high season on Manitoulin is very, very short—six weeks at best, beginning shortly after the beginning of July and ending well before the end of August. During that short high season, the dollars that tourists inject into the local economy play a vital role in making peripheral businesses viable.
Although the jobs the tourism season creates in local resorts, food stands, restaurants, gift shops and marinas may be seasonal, those jobs play an important role in the rural and Northern quality of life. Those seasonal jobs allow students to earn the money they need for school and those jobs also boost the incomes of folks who might otherwise find themselves completely on the margins and having to depend on the bare bones social safety net—anyone who has looked beyond the political rhetoric of the government of the day, or been unfortunate enough to have had to depend on that so-called safety net, quickly finds that net is both very porous and weak.
With the North American economies on the rebound, particularly south of the border, people are once again returning to Manitoulin Island and bringing with them some very welcome economic benefits.
Even those whose livelihoods do not seem to be directly connected with the tourism industry benefit greatly, if indirectly, from those tourism dollars. The tax income from recreational properties and commercial businesses that depend on the tourism dollar help to offset the property taxes paid by local residents, their annual boost to the Island’s population makes possible services that communities our size would never be able to sustain (to the satisfaction of government bean counters at least). Those services, particularly in health, play a large role in allowing residents to stay in their homes and communities rather than having to move to larger centres.
With the boost to the local economy provided by tourism dollars, grocery stores, service stations, and hardware stores are there when we need them, most staying in business all year round.
So a very heartfelt “thank you” goes out to our summer visitors, both tourist and resident, for helping to make Manitoulin Island a better place for all of us to live, work and play. We look forward to your return next season and we encourage you to bring your friends and family so they too can discover this jewel we call home.