Manitoulin Welcome Centre opens doors to travelling public

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, Manitoulin’s largest tourist information centre, located just beyond the iconic swing bridge, opened its doors to the travelling public on Friday, June 26.

A municipal staff report for the Northeast Town council states, “the business community has requested that we send a clear message that we are open for business and that our community is prepared to welcome our seasonal residents and tourism-related traffic into our communities. For many of these businesses, their economic survival depends on driving sufficient business during the summer months to sustain their operations for the rest of the year.”

Since the building was first opened in 1990, the building has been owned by the Northeast Town with operation costs shared by the Manitoulin municipalities. The day-to-day operations were maintained by the Manitoulin Tourism Association until the end of 2018.

Staff proposed to council that Centennial Museum of Sheguiandah operations extend to the welcome centre which would maximize summer student staffing and help the municipality promote its museum and the Sheguiandah archaeological site, a joint partnership with Sheguiandah First Nation. The summer student employees will be supplemented with the help of volunteers. It is not expected that this model will have any impact on the wage line of the budget.

“Under our existing agreements with the (Welcome Centre) Building Operations Committee we have a commitment from the participating municipalities to fund the operation of the building,” the report continues. “Under this proposal, there will not be any additional staffing or management costs to the municipalities and their only financial contribution will remain their existing commitment to fund the operations of the building.”

Building Operations Committee members had met for a virtual meeting hosted by Mayor Al MacNevin earlier this month. They were then taking the ask to continue to flow funds to the operation of the welcome centre back to their respective councils. (So far only Assiginack and Billings have agreed to continue to supply operational funds for the welcome centre.)

Councillor Dawn Orr asked what hours the welcome centre will be staffed. Mr. Williamson replied that the doors will be open from 10 am to 8 pm, seven days a week. He also explained that staff was in the process of being trained by museum curator Lisa Hallaert, who is also in charge of welcome centre operations this year.

“We will be using The Expositor’s publication This is Manitoulin, which is an excellent resource, and are reaching out to the other municipalities for their materials,” Mr. Williamson explained.

A motion to open the welcome centre was moved by Councillor Laurie Cook and seconded by Councillor Bill Koehler.