French River resort owner considers COVID-19 the latest ‘plague’ on northern tourism

Seasonal tourism operators in the French River area are going through more tough times.

Customers stayed away in 2018 due to a massive forest fire, and last spring, flooding caused damage to many businesses. And now COVID-19 threatens to scuttle another season.

The owner and operator of Wolseley Lodge in French River says some operators fear a loss of business this summer because of the pandemic and may not be able to access financial aid.

“It’s pretty tough to get the government’s assistance for the self-employed,” Harold Lutte said.

“It’s not really clear cut. If you’re a seasonal business, you can’t count deposits … because those aren’t technically sales … I can’t prove to the government that I have 15 or 30 per cent less sales. So they don’t recognize this.”

Lutte is also vice president of the French River Resort Owners association. He says he took over Wolseley lodge in in 2004, just after the SARS outbreak.

“But that was pretty small compared to COVID-19. We didn’t account for a financial crisis in 2008-2009. We didn’t account for big forest fires close by. The amount of flooding we got here in 2019 was unheard of.”

Lutte said he is trying to find the humour in all these losses.

“That’s the one thing we can’t lose. Just put a smile on our face. So at the moment we’ve [already had] the first three plagues. Please don’t send more. We know there are seven in the Bible, but we don’t need the other four.”

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