by Robin Burridge
LITTLE CURRENT—Construction of the new hotel in Little Current being built by a consortium of area First Nations represented by the Great Spirit Circle Trail (GSCT)—is well underway.
“The project is moving along well,” reported GSCT manager Kevin Eshkawkogan. “Permits are in place, work tenders are out and staff are busy creating a local business data base.”
The $10.8 million project was three years in the making, after the GSCT identified a gap in the Manitoulin tourism industry and developed the project to grow tourism for not just First Nations, but the region as a whole.
Mr. Eshkawkogan explained that his organization is doing its best to hire locally, whenever possible, in terms of construction and hotel employees.
“We will begin officially hiring hotel staff in the new year,” Mr. Eshkawkogan told The Expositor, “but we have already begun receiving applications.”
Mr. Eshkawkogan revealed that over the next two months they will begin offering tourism and hotel industry training programs. He said that they have certified instructors at the GSCT that will be leading the training programs and certifying individuals.
In terms of the hotel’s management, Mr. Eshkawkogan said that the GSCT is still exploring their options. They have two directions in which to go: the first is to hire a full time general manager who would report to a board of directors or else to contract a hotel management group that would run the facility.
Mr. Eshkawkogan squashed rumors that the hotel was downgrading to 38 rooms. “That is completely untrue,” said Mr. Eshkawkogan. “We have scaled down the project slightly from 63 rooms to 58 in order to make the suites and all of the rooms in general larger.”
The hotel is moving along relatively on schedule, the GSCT manager said. It was originally slotted to be finished by spring 2012, but now Mr. Eshkawkogan is stating the full hotel will be full functioning by mid-June.
Still in the plans is the hotel’s 50-60 seat restaurant and large patio, though a restaurant company has not yet been selected. “We will be leasing out the restaurant space,” said Mr. Eshkawkogan. “We have had many offers, but we have not decided who to select yet. We would like to select someone who fits our vision—a higher-end dinning experience featuring wild meats and other aboriginal cuisine elements.”
The hotel décor has not been decided yet either, but Mr. Eshkawkogan explained that the GSCT hopes to incorporate subtle aboriginal elements which hint at the culture.
The hotel will feature an outdoor pool overlooking the North Channel, an elegant spa and a conference area that will accommodate up to 350 people.
“We have already begun marketing the hotel,” said Mr. Eshkawkogan. “We have even established a waiting list of groups wanting to book the hotel. We are just waiting to officially book parties until the project is further underway.”