Cree-owned company opens new Val-d’Or hotel in record time

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When Tony Gull, president of Tawich Development Corporation, told his board that building a new hotel in Val-d’Or would be a good idea, everyone readily agreed. They all knew that finding a room in this northern city was often be difficult. “The kids inspired me,” said Gull, because during Val-d’Or hockey tournaments they often had to take hotel rooms outside of the city.

Gull made the remarks at the June 26 grand opening of another Cree-owned hotel in Val-d’Or. The Microtel at 1515 3rd Avenue offers 84 rooms, an indoor pool, a fitness centre and conference facilities in affiliation with the Wyndham Hotel chain.

Wemindji Chief Christina Gilpin echoed Gull’s words, saying children are important to Wemindji. She added that was why they included a pool and a waterslide in the 84-room hotel. “Something that is fun for the kids,” said Gilpin. “It’s one for our kids and the future generations. This investment is one that will last a long time.”

Usually it takes three years to build a hotel, but the $13 million project was finished in only 18 months. Tawich has 51% ownership with James Bay Eeyou Corporation holding 39% and MasterBuilt Hotels 10%.

Gull said economic development has to be more than just inside of a community. “We need to go out and find investment and opportunities that we can bring back to our communities. That is something we are doing here in Wemindji,” said Gull.

Gilpin agreed and said that when you invest both in and outside the community you bring money in and it circulates, creating a strong stable economy.

Grand Chief Abel Bosum called the new facility an important undertaking. “What we are doing is moving forward and this shows leadership in business development,” Bosum said. “This hotel is the result of people working hard and believing in their dreams.”

Gilpin said that she wouldn’t have believed that a Cree community could make this project a possibility. “I think it is so important for Val-d’Or to receive us in this way,” she said, as it opens up other possibilities.

Val-d’Or Mayor Pierre Corbeil lauded the city’s long relationship with the Cree of Eeyou Istchee. Corbeil said the new hotel is an example of working together in a way that is beneficial for both communities.

The proof that another hotel was needed is reflected in that they set an opening month record for revenue per room for a Microtel Inn in Canada. But it wasn’t the only milestone for the new business.

The majority Cree-owned hotel is the first Microtel Inn to open in Quebec. Another first is that a First Nation-owned company, VCC General Contractor, built the hotel.

Mike Woodward, VP for Franchise Sales for Wyndham Hotels and Resorts, said the grand opening was different from others he has attended. “It revealed the support of the community, the Wemindji First Nation and everyone involved in the project, and it shows the support that’s here. The way that the numbers have run in the first month shows the extent of that support from the community,” he said.

Woodward said it was also important to attend the opening because “it’s an important and strategic partnership with the First Nations and everyone who was involved and that this is a partnership that will grow into future opportunities.”

Woodward thanked the Cree for believing in them and partnering with the Wyndham-owned Microtel chain. “There were a lot of options you could have gone with,” he said. “We appreciate what you are doing and we will do everything we can to make this a success.”

GIlpin told the Nation, “I was very happy to see the results of hard work by a lot of people to make it a success. But now we are going to need clients to make it a success. So please reserve, book your rooms now.”

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