Traveling Rankin

Accommodation booming as competition comes to Rankin Inlet



Rankin Inlet has given new meaning to the expression “friendly competition.”

Nunavut’s second-largest community is enjoying a sudden boom in the hospitality industry, without the cut-throat one-upmanship that comes with business elsewhere.

In the past few months, the Rankin co-op has put millions of dollars on the line, expanding its store and opening an already popular hotel and restaurant earlier this month. At the same time, another entrepreneur has opened his home as a bed and breakfast.

And instead of saying, “my place is better than your place,” they plug their competition to customers when they don’t have room for them.

Take Rick Mann, for example. The 49-year-old government worker opened the Siqiniq Bed and Breakfast in his home last month, mostly because he was lonely, not because he wanted to put other hotels out of business.

Mann’s bed and breakfast joins a host of other accommodations, including the Nanuk Inn, the Siniktarvik Hotel, and Tara’s Bed and Breakfast.

Mann says when his wife recently left for a new job in Alberta, he wanted to find a way to have people around.

After he heard continuous complaints from people looking for a new place to stay, Mann took a chance on something he never thought he’d do.

“It’s to give people choice,” Mann said of his new business. “It’s not to say it’s better than anything else.”

Mann’s friendly approach seems to be paying off. Only a month into his new venture, Mann finds customers every week. So far, he’s hosted government workers on training workshops, business people, and teachers in transit, just waiting for an upcoming flight.

“You’ve got to have that positive attitude,” he said. “Whatever you do comes back to you.

“I think that’s important in this business.”

Mann’s sentiments are echoed across town at the Turaarvik Inns North hotel and restaurant.

Every lunch hour has been bustling with dozens of people in the hotel’s restaurant since they’ve opened their doors on Nov. 1. Hotel guests order spaghetti, and fajitas. Some local youth get a quick round of coffee, and clubhouse sandwiches.

But again, management won’t put down their main competition, the Siniktarvik Hotel and restaurant, which has had a virtual monopoly for years. Instead, they phone each other regularly, when they reach capacity.

“We send the overflow to the Siniktarvik or vice-versa,” said Bernie McInnis, manager of the Kissarvik co-op store, hotel and restaurant complex. “We didn’t open to put the Siniktarvik out of business.

“We compliment each other, in a way.”

For the co-op, it’s also a friendly gamble. Their parent organization, Arctic Co-operatives Ltd., invested $1.5 million in starting up the 22-room hotel.

McInnis said ACL decided to make the major investment as a “go big or don’t bother” strategy, to save the dying co-op. Until they expanded the co-op grocery to be as large as the local Northern store grocery area, the co-op didn’t return any dividends to members because they weren’t making any money, McInnis said.

The catch will be whether Rankin Inlet can support the growing number of hotels and restaurants, including the co-op store expansion. McInnis believes it can, citing the community’s growing population, and the spin-off business from the hospital construction, as signs of good times ahead.

“The economy here is pretty strong,” he said. “We wouldn’t have ever built a hotel if it wouldn’t work.

“Things have been going long enough, that they would have gone wrong, if they were going to.”

Government observers said the community is actually going through a downturn in the number of visitors passing through, but attributed the decline to a natural cycle in tourism’s ups and downs.

Brian Webb, a marketing officer for Nunavut Tourism, said the latest additions to Rankin Inlet’s hospitality industry bode well for a future boost in tourism, because extra accommodations will be in place if other residents decide to open outfitting businesses, or other tourist attractions.

“The fact that all these accommodations are opening up mean that they’re going to be ahead of the game,” Webb said. “We’re very optimistic about the situation.”

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