WINNIPEG -- Polar Bear viewing and Beluga Whale experiences have put Manitoba’s north on the map when it comes to tourism, and the push is on to bring even more visitors to the northern part of the province.

In 2017, the provincial government and Travel Manitoba began working together on the Northern Manitoba Tourism Strategy, an initiative that supports tourism in the northern part of the province.

Ralph Eichler, Minister of Economic Development and Training said tourism has an important role in diversifying the northern economy and creating new jobs in the region.

“This past year we had $1.6 billion in tourism revenue,” said Eichler. “We want to grow that to $2 billion at least.”

Paul and Mathew Wiens are the owners of Viking Lodge, a fishing resort in Cranberry Portage seven hours north of Winnipeg. They’ve seen an improvement in business since the inception of the Northern Manitoba Tourism Strategy.

“The effort the Government is making in promoting tourism in the north right now, we’ve already noticed it,” said Paul Wiens.

The Wiens brothers do most of their business in the summer, but they hope the tourism strategy will change that.

“In a perfect world, we’d like to see 5 or 6 cabins that we could keep open year-round.”

Gary Bell is the Chair of the Northern Tourism Advisory Committee, he said there are a lot of attractions that draw people to the north. 

“There’s hunting, there’s snowshoeing, there’s snowmobiling,” said Bell.

Bell added Churchill is a big international lure for tourism, but it’s not the only destination.

“There’s a ton of product, it’s not just Churchill, there’s Thompson, Flin Flon, The Pas.” 

In 2019, Manitoba was named one of the top ten places to visit by Lonely Planet, an internationally recognized travel company.

The Northern Manitoba Tourism Strategy progress report said tourists spend $116 million in northern Manitoba annually. The goal is to have that number increase to $151 million annually by March 2022.