After surviving the past two pandemic years, the operators of Iron Mountain Wilderness Cabins, on top of Whycocomagh Mountain in Cape Breton, were hoping for big bookings this March Break.

The property’s owners say that it hasn’t happened as planned.

“I wish I could say they were great,” said Iron Mountain co-owner Jess Klein when asked about this week’s visitor numbers.

Klein says a lack of snow for the snowmobiling and snowshoeing they offer has been one problem. The price of gas has been another.

“It’s costing them about $100 to go out for the day for a (snowmobile) run,” Klein said. “When you add that in to your other travel costs, it’s starting to have an impact on whether that trip is affordable.”

On Monday, Cape-Breton Canso Liberal MP, Mike Kelloway, announced more than $2.2 million to help the Island’s tourism sector rebound from the pandemic.

The money will help fund what’s being called a World Tourism Institute at Cape Breton University.

When it comes to gas prices, Kelloway says it’s a complex worldwide problem – but the cabinet and the Prime Minister’s office have options on the table.

“Whether you are a tourism operator or you own a clothing shop or you’re a person going to your business, we have to find ways to make things more affordable for everyday Canadians – including how do we give them some relief at the pumps, Kelloway said.

He adds that he thinks the best is yet to come for the tourism sector, thanks to the research and training the World Tourism Institute programming is expected to provide.

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The CEO of Destination Cape Breton said Monday’s funding announcement was welcome, but conceded that gas prices are a concern on the heels of the two pandemic years the tourism sector has gone through.

“For a couple coming from Ontario for example, maybe they’re spending $200-300 more on their trip,” Terry Smith said. “If they can do anything tax-wise to encourage people that will go a long way – because many of our visitors that we’re expecting this year will be coming by car.”

Tourism officials say the new program at CBU will focus on training and research to help the industry hit the ground running once restrictions are lifted.

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