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From private getaway to tourist attraction
Namushka Lodge joins push to increase profile of tourism in the NWT

Thandiwe Vela
Northern News Services
Published Wednesday, February 29, 2012

As Northwest Territories Tourism raises the profile of the territory with its new 2012/13 marketing plan, Yellowknife operators are also stepping up to provide experiences that will draw visitors.

NNSL photo/graphic

Elise and Joseph Chorostkowski, owner operators of Namushka Lodge, located about 53 air km east of Yellowknife, on the northern tip of Harding Lake. - photo courtesy of Namushka Lodge (1982) Ltd..

A 20-minute snowmobile ride from Reid Lake Territorial Park, about 53 air km east of Yellowknife on the northern tip of Harding Lake, Namushka Lodge cabins give visitors the iconic parks and wilderness experience among the focuses of NWT Tourism's campaign.

Once an exclusive getaway for six local families, Bryan Chorostkowski has promoted Namushka into a viable business, in high demand for tourists and Northerners alike.

"It was never really intended to be commercially run," Chorostkowski said, recalling the limbo Namushka entered when the other five families moved away from the region and his parents, Elise and Joseph Chorostkowski, eventually buying them out.

"We kind of sat around and said 'We don't want to lose the place," Chorostkowski said. "And as much as we would like to spend every weekend out there by ourselves, we can't just hold onto it and sink money into it."

In the last year, Chorostkowski has taken to newspaper and television advertising, trade shows and events, and created a new logo, brochures, and a banner promoting trips to Namushka's remote cottages for fishing, canoeing, snowmobiling and other recreational activities in the wild of the NWT.

While the lodge has not qualified for capital funding from the Department of Industry, Tourism, and Investment, Chorostkowski credits territorial tourism campaigns -- especially the "spectacular" rebranding of the NWT -- for getting valuable exposure and raising the profile of Yellowknife.

"I do believe that the advertising and getting the name out there is working," he said, noting it's been a steep learning curve for himself, turning Namushka into a commercial enterprise, while still maintaining the family-owned plumbing and heating company, J & R Mechanical Ltd.

"We're not marketers, to be honest, we're a family of plumbers," he said.

Elise and Joseph Chorostkowski have taken retirement at the 12-guest lodge and host the growing number of visitors. Last summer about 85 guests stayed at Namushka, about half from out of town. Spring and summer 2012 bookings are also filling up.

Not yet at the level of the world-class chefs and well-planned getaways of Blachford Lake Lodge, Namushka has a unique market -- unstructured, uncatered, "bring your own food, bring your own drinks, fish when you want to fish" style, Chorostkowski said.

"We still don't want to take away from the affordability and kind of the 'it's your own trip do what you want' attitude," he said, pegging the rates, depending on the number of nights and number of people in the group, at about $600 per person for two nights including return float plane transportation from Yellowknife.

NWT Tourism chair Jenni Bruce credits members of the organization such as Namushka Lodge for boosting tourism with strong visitor packages.

"Our members have become more engaged and the products developing have increased satisfaction," Bruce said.

The new NWT Tourism marketing plan was developed with input from local industry partners and, in addition to parks and wilderness, the plan focuses on other iconic attractions including the aurora borealis, lakes and rivers, culture and people, and Northern realities.

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