In 2012, COTA undertook a membership study to ascertain and understand the major issues facing tourism providers in Cree communities and identify how members and other tourism providers perceive and define COTA and other tourism agencies within the region. The following graphic outlines the major outcomes of this study.
Based on this study, as well as other studies, the following are some of the current projects being undertaken by COTA
Master Plan for Air Access for Tourism
Eeyou Istchee Baie-James has enormous potential for tourism development. Although travel to all but one of our communities is possible by road, convenient and affordable air access is key to developing a successful tourism destination — and Eeyou Istchee Baie-James is no exception. The need, therefore, to improve air access was becoming increasingly critical. An in-depth analysis of the current realities of air travel to and within Eeyou Istchee Baie-James (including outfitting camps, cultural destinations, and coastal islands) was required. Representatives from both COTA and TBJ undertook an extensive tour of the region over a 3-month period. The purpose of this tour was twofold:
- to engage in discussions with tourism stakeholders throughout the region; and
- to identify the limitations and potential opportunities for tourism development in accordance with reasonable access (both existing and potential).
The information and insight gathered during the tour were used to begin development of the Master Plan for Air Access for Tourism. The Plan includes a detailed review of current transportation options (Air Creebec, bush planes, private charter) and makes reference to other successful tourism models (Mont Tremblant, Québec and Vail, Colorado). The Master Plan presents a realistic and viable air-access model that will help guide the decision-making process for tourism development throughout the region, including access to some very specific and remote locations. The plan highlights a number of recommendations such as better use of current private charter flight capacity, the implementation of airport platforms and custom infrastructure and development of a base camp project. The study also identifies the importance of facilitating travel to the region by creating travel packages to enhance both the offering and tourists’ experience. This model for enhanced access to the region provides the foundation for a master tourism development plan in Eeyou Istchee Baie-James.
Funding was provided by the Ministère des Finances et de l’Économie and Tourisme Québec.
Business Plan for Developing a Destination Management Company
In partnership with Tourisme Baie-James, COTA has created a business plan for the development of a licensed Destination Management Company (DMC). The DMC’s mandate will be to market and promote Eeyou Istchee and Baie-James as well as develop and sell travel packages. Market conditions favourable to the launch of a DMC are a recent development; however, the vision of creating such an entity was expressed nearly 40 years ago in the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement (JBNQA). With the development of a DMC, COTA fulfils its obligation under Article 28.6.1 of the JBNQA to provide marketing, booking, and promotion services for Cree outfitting operations. The business plan is a detailed document that:
- examines recent tourism trends
- provides a detailed analysis of the DMC’s role
- outlines its strategic objectives
- describes sample packages
- defines the Cree and Jamesian partnership
- charts the DMC’s organizational structure
- provides information on the current state of tourism domestically and abroad
- provides in-depth case studies and analysis of four comparable DMC
- highlights the tourism potential in the region
The business plan outlines a detailed 5-year strategy for implementation from 2013 to 2018.
This project was funded by Ministère des Finances et de l’Économie and Tourisme Québec
Product Development Coaching
In early 2012, in response to its member survey, COTA launched the Product Development Coaching program. This is a 3-year initiative designed to provide Cree entrepreneurs with support to upgrade and enhance their tourism products. It is also designed to help them create market-ready tourism offerings that are specifically designed to meet the needs and expectations of travellers to the region. The program offers coaching on business development and implementation with a focus on individual needs. The project was launched at this year’s Tourism Conference and AGM. Any Cree tourism entrepreneur interested in taking part in this initiative was required to complete an in-depth application form. Upon careful review of the applications, four tourism businesses were selected to participate. Each was evaluated for its potential to make a positive contribution to the tourism industry. Participating businesses include Nuuhchimi Wiinuu run by David and Anna Bosum, Eagle Mountain Tourism Adventures operated by Paul and Joseph Mianscum, Tepee Adventures operated by Roy Mianscum, and Natagam Boreal Adventure and Kookum Sarah’s Bed and Breakfast operated by Earl Danyluk Sr. and Earl Danyluk Jr. The project includes 4 distinct phases. In phase 1, completed in April 2012, needs and expectations were clearly defined and a set of clear and realistic objectives was established. Phase 1 also provided an opportunity to meet with the owners/operators of the 4 participating businesses. Phase 2 was an evaluation of current status (market readiness) of each of the four participating Cree businesses and included an analysis of current tourism trends as well as the overall state of tourism in Eeyou Istchee.
Phase 3, currently underway, provides the opportunity to review and evaluate the “vision” of each of the participating businesses and, whenever necessary, redirect and set a clear set of objectives.
Phase 4 is the implementation stage, which is scheduled to be completed in April 2015. During this final and extended phase, funding sources will be identified and participating businesses will undergo the necessary modifications and upgrades to ensure their market readiness. While participating business owners/operators will undertake the bulk of the work, they will receive continual support and monthly visits to ensure progress and seek advice and assistance if needed. Since its launch, the Product Development Coaching project has made good progress and is well-positioned to achieve a high level of success upon completion 2 years from now.
Funding was provided by Aboriginal Affairs & Northern Development Canada and Tourisme Québec.
Strategic Business Plan for the Coastal Route Project
The development of a strategic business plan for the coastal route project is a major component of our 2012- 2014 tourism action plan. The coastal route encompasses the area along the James Bay coast between Waskaganish and Whapmagoostui. The primary function of the business plan is to determine the feasibility and impact and benefit of increased tourism on the natural resources and local economies. Some of the key questions addressed in the plan are:
- What is the real potential for developing a Coastal Route for the purpose of tourism?
- What actual modes of transportation will the Route accommodate?
- Can tourism along the coast be offered year round or on a seasonal basis only?
- Which communities, attractions, and activities should be part of the Coastal Route and what is the actual tourism capacity of these communities?
The plan aims to develop tourism offerings along the coast that will:
- protect and showcase Cree culture
- provide ecologically sound experiences and contact at the personal level
- share benefits within communities (rather than creating wealth for a single individual)
- support local entrepreneurs
- act in accordance with the reality and priorities of each Cree community: no imposed solution and no “one size fits all” initiatives
The plan outlines potential packages or “routes” such as travelling the Fur Trade Route, Discovering the Ecosystems of James Bay and Caribou Watching. It also outlines costing for each and addresses such factors as marketing, funding and implementation. Funding for this initiative was provided by Ministère des Finances et de l’Économie and Tourisme Québec. 6. Cape Hope Islands in the Development of Cultural and Eco-Tourism In the summer of 2012, as part of COTA’s strategic business plan for the Coastal Route Project, a reconnaissance trip to South Twin and Cape Hope Islands and then north to Roggan River was organized. The trip clearly established the incredible beauty, ecological diversity and cultural vitality of the region. Historically, Cape Hope island, home to the most southerly Inuit settlement represents a place of cross-cultural harmony between the Inuit and the Crees who inhabited the nearby Old Factory Island.
Some of the objectives of the project are to:
- Gather existing ethnographic records and other historical documents for the area
- Bring former inhabitants back to Cape Hope in the summer of 2013 and record their personal histories and other stories on the island
- Organize all of these materials in a way that can be readily applied to the needs of tourism development in the context of COTA’s Coastal Route Project
- Work with Nunavik Inuit and AVATAQ for future collaborative work farther north.
This project is intended to meet the Development and Innovation objectives under ACCORD, in particular Objectives 4.1 and 4.2 which seek to ensure that Eeyou Istchee becomes a leader in the development of culturally appropriate, community-based northern tourism and to build expertise and create interpretation materials.
Funding was provided by Ministère des Finances et de l’Économie (a request for additional funding from Tourisme Québec is still pending)