Monday, July 07, 2008

Summer Days

Last week we took Mr's OMMAG's brother and his wife to see some of the sites at Hecla Island .
The inlaws are from the GTA and although they were both born the Selkirk area they've been gone a long time and well before the island became a tourist attraction.

As a family, the OMMAG clan has been making trips up to the end of highway #8 for a couple of decades and we like the quiet and low key atmosphere. The main attraction for us has been the well laid out hiking trails and the sea shore like atmosphere. Over the years we've camped a lot at the Hecla Island campground or stayed at the old Gull Harbour resort. We've golfed and hiked or bicycled, swam the beaches, explored the shorelines, canoed, fossil hunted and picnicked, fished and just kicked back.

Since the opening of the cottage lots on the North Shore and the resettlement of folks who were expropriated when the province set up the park there has been great improvement in the facilities and amenities of the island. Notable improvements at the Gull Harbour site with the marina, store and restaurant. The Benson brothers have done a lot of improvement at the once decrepit and declining site. Back at the village museums and historical sites are kept well and the local businesses are doing well and being well managed.

Which brings us to the recent trip where we stayed for the first time at the Solmundson Gesta Hus !

Run by Dave and Sharon Holtz in the village .... it's a B&B operated in Sharon's family home. Dave fishes for a living and helps Sharon host the visitors .... particularly by serving up awesome breakfasts.
Now I am not a regular patron of the B&B scene but based on the comfortable and welcoming hospitality displayed by the Holtz's .... I'd say this is one place to check out.

Which brings us to the supposedly new and improved Hecla Oasis Resort .....

All spruced up with really high end finishing the old resort and conference centre is being operated by Radisson Hotels. I'm happy to see that someone is putting the money and effort into rejuvenating the resort but I have severe reservations (not to make a pun) about the future for this version's long term prospects.

First of all the concept of the resort and conference centre was already tried and failed.
No matter how much money you put into it Hecla is TOO far from any major center to attract enough business as a destination. Winnipeg cannot and will not support the resort with enough business to make it sustainable and that means that Radisson is faced with the challenge of driving business to it's remote facility from it's existing customer base. While possible that their global advertising and customer base may provide some interest what I see happening is the hotel group offering incentives to clients who make the trip. Which still leaves us with the logistics of getting to Hecla. Let's face it..... in the eye of the international business or vacation traveler Manitoba is way off the beaten track ... Hecla is in the middle of nowhere !

Add to that scenario the problems of maintaining trained and competent staff ( which was one of the major issues at the old resort) and the Radisson business model of high end service at premium prices and you have a recipe for failure.

To give an example of how this is already going wrong we have the anecdote from some travelers we bumped into. This couple wanted to book online and went to check prices for the Resort. The prices went up several times over the course of a single day. Needles to say the couple passed on the Radisson.

Another example is how the staff handled our own visit.
We went to check out the facilities at about 5:30 on Thursday. When we got there the dining room was empty and three youngish service people popped out of the woodwork in short order to see what we wanted. Not a bad thing at all but the look on their faces was more of panic than of welcoming concern over our wishes. First question ... "Do you have reservations? "
No .... do you only serve people based on reservations? "I'll have to check with the chef...."

Don't worry we really just came to check out the menu.

"We'll check with the chef ......" that apparently takes two people.... leaving one to keep an eye on the suspicious interlopers I guess. While they were gone we had a few minutes to peruse the dining room's offerings. Very nice and modern decor combined with an overpriced and short menu. Now I do not mind paying premium prices for the best service in the best restaurants in the best locations. But let's face it Radisson Hotels in places like San Fransisco or Vancouver or New York have the right combination plus the earned reputation for delivering on the promise of a first rate dining experience. Hecla does not enjoy this status. And so we see our nervous would be servers approach to tell us that "Sorry! The chef has planned and prepared only enough to serve the reserved guests." ..... pretty much what we expected.

Got news for ya' boys ..... those other Radisson locations would have gotten us a table ..... served us with aplomb and cashed the 2 or 3 hundred bucks spent .... the servers would have gotten their tips and everyone would have been happy!

So we trundled off to the Harbour for a big helping of steak and seafood .... a decidedly low end and low priced meal with decidedly satisfying results.

Just for curiosity's sake we stopped back at the resort at 7:20 to check ...... empty dining room.

So that's the Hecla experience! Still the golf course is a good reason to go ... so is the camping ... so is the nature experience and decidedly .... if you like that sort of thing .... the B&B.

BTW - we always make a stop at Gimli on the way up and the way back. Just to stretch our legs on the quay and sometimes to have a snack. The numerous street take outs are good and the hotel has nice lunch salads on the deck.

The light was fantastic on Friday morning on the way home..................

Thats the inside wall of the quay looking back at the hotel. A couple of artists working on new paintings for the wall.

This one is commemorating the 25th anniversary
of the Gimli Glider ......

BTW - you can click on the pictures to make them big!


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Blogger talnik said...

Ice out yet? Must be global warming.

7/07/2008 3:05 p.m.  
Blogger OMMAG said...

Apparently you have not been to Manitoba in July!

The hazard of the month is Mosquitos... big enough to fight off the otters and geese then carry off the garter snakes.

Ever been in a hot tub with a snorkel?

7/07/2008 6:49 p.m.  
Blogger cherenkov said...


7/07/2008 11:12 p.m.  

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