Urs and Marianne Schildknecht immigrated to Canada in 1979 as a young couple from Switzerland. Today, forty years later, they are the proud owner of the family-run, Northern Rockies Lodge. Purchasing the lodge in 1988, four years before the paving of the Alaska Highway, they have evolved with the region, growing from a fly-in-fly-out operation, to becoming one of the largest year round hotel and RV operation outside of any town on the Alaska Highway.
Located halfway between Whitehorse and Fort St. John, on beautiful Muncho lake, the Northern Rockies Lodge sits at the northern tip of the Rocky Mountains. The lodge is entirely self-sustaining, generating their own electricity and is conveniently located between the Liard Hot Springs and Toad River, with easy access to the tremendous back-country of the Muskwa Kechika region. Their facilities include a hotel, fully licensed dining room, lounge, motel, cozy cabins, lakeshore chalets, RV camping, sauna and gas station, floatplane base and fly-in outpost cabins.
A strong partnership between the lodge and the Northern Rockies Adventures provides visitors the opportunity to discover an uncrowded, authentic, supernatural British Columbia adventure. The adventure company offers visitors the rare experience of soaring over the province in a private charter, skipping airport lines and embarking on a journey along the most scenic stretches of the world-famous, historic, Alaska Highway. The experience affords visitors the opportunity to explore the surrounding provincial parks and picturesque rugged landscapes. With world-class, experienced guides, day trips, such as canoeing, mountain biking, hiking, fishing and more are not only once-in-a-lifetime experiences, but also safe and hassle-free.
2020 was expected to be another busy year at the lodge, the Schildknechts two sons Michael and Daniel were slated to take on the leadership of the family business. In early March with a successfully newly launched Northern Lights tour news of the pandemic hit hard. Like so many other tourism operators, they experienced a dramatic crash in sales, initially dropping by 70% across both companies.
“We went from our busiest March on record, to suddenly having our slowest March, as the entire tourism infrastructure airlines, including bus tours, began to cancel at a rapid pace,” said Daniel.
The lodge and adventure operation knew they needed the support of the larger tourism community in order to survive. Partnering with the Tourism Resiliency Program, Northern Rockies Lodge and Northern Rockies Adventures began to coordinate with other tourism providers in the region, shifting their approach to attracting local and regional visitors. The Tourism Resiliency Program was helpful in supporting their shift in perspective and subsequent marketing strategy, and all the paperwork that went along with it.
“With the help of the Tourism Resiliency Program we have shifted our focus away from international tourists, pivoting towards regional tourists. We are offering new tours and experiences and encouraging regional adventurers to book longer stays with our new “3 for 2” promotion.” This promotion in addition to the efforts of Northern BC tourism to encourage safe provincial travel helped dampen the devastating effects of the pandemic. Working with a NBCT destination development expert the Northern Rockies Lodge and Adventures plans on adapting to the post pandemic tourism industry.
Daniel said that both the lodge and the adventure company are now in a better position then expected, adding “we are looking beyond 2021. We know it will be a long road back, but we are optimistic for the future. If there is a positive in all this, it is that as tourism operators in the region, we have all learned to work together better, our cooperation is stronger now than ever before”. With the recent purchase of a new Executive charter aircraft, up to 9 guests can now fly-up in the comfort and safety of the company’s private charter, skipping crowded airport lineups entirely. With this investment amongst others the Schildknechts are clearly confident in the future of tourism in the region and are ready for challenges to come.