Attendees from Eeyou Istchee gathered on July 11 to preview the new Creetopia design, a unique prototype camping tent showcased during the Cree Outfitting and Tourism Association (COTA) annual assembly in Chisasibi.
The tent was created by the Cree in partnership with Huttopia, a French company specializing in customized and sustainable accommodation packages for ready-to-camp and glamping (camping with glamour) units.
Huttopia intends is to hybridize modern camping units with traditional knowledge and architecture established by Cree communities in the James Bay region.
“Tourism needs more than just accommodation, it needs experiences in the community,” said Louise Séguin, Product Development Officer at COTA.
Elders, community members, local leaders and government representatives were present to review the design intended to boost the tourism economy in the region.
With comfort in mind, sustainable development is the driving force behind the design. A large exterior draped with tarps and locally sourced wooden beams greets guests as they enter camp through a semi-tent meant for outdoor lounging. The interior of the prototype is spacious with a wood stove, and capable of accommodating up to 20 people.
“More and more people like being in nature,” said Séguin, “but they also like to enjoy their comforts.”
The Creetopia project includes a five-year implementation strategy, the development of camping sites for Ouje-Bougoumou, Mistissini and the Mistissini wildlife reserves, and a continuing development plan for Cree communities interested in having the Creetopia tents.
Prior to the unveiling, meetings were held between the three selected communities to discuss designs. Representatives of Huttopia visited Eeeyou Istchee in 2018 to adapt their designs and to better understand the communities and their environs.
“This partnership will contribute to the development of a new distinct accommodation based on Cree culture,” stated Huttopia owners Céline and Philippe Bossanne in a press release.
The partnership like the design is unique. According to COTA, the tents will be exclusive to the Cree nation, and won’t be found anywhere else in the world. The collaboration between the Cree communities and the French company is intended to be flexible to reflect the needs and experiences of the community where their accommodations will be set up.
As for the actual cost, it is still unclear. Huttopia’s final version of their tents will be determined by the needs of each community, the location, whether it’s remote, and the topography, to name just a few criteria.
Overall, COTA estimates considerable economic, social and environmental benefits stemming for the project. “It will help bring new clients, new visitors to the region,” stated Séguin.
With innovation and culture driving the project in Eeyou Istchee communities, Pierre Fitzgibbon, Quebec’s Minister of Economy and Innovation and Minister Responsible for the Lanaudière Region, believes it will create a significant ripple effect for sustainable tourism in the area, which would result “in major economic spinoffs for the region.”
“When tourism products are created locally, it creates jobs,” explained Séguin. Craftsmen, cultural guides and artists can profit from such a program. “Local economic benefit means it will stay local. It won’t disappear.”
The project is intended for small tour groups, customized experiences and higher-end services for tourists, which COTA communities are well equipped for, noted Séguin.
One example is the newly created business venture, Wiinipaakw Tours Solidarity Cooperative, the first tourism cooperative of the Eeyou Istchee Baie-James region.
The upcoming camping project also intends to foster stronger generational relationships by offering opportunities for the youth to drive cultural experience tours based on local knowledge from Elders.
“This project put forward by the region’s Cree communities is the perfect example of what we can achieve when we reach out to new partners to help us fulfill our vision,” stated Denis Lamothe, Member of the National Assembly for Ungava.
Major financial support for developing Creetopia is funded in part by the Ministry of Tourism, the Cree Nation Government, the Programme d’adaptation de domicile (PAD), and the ACCORD initiative.
For an opportunity to see the tent design and share your input, the prototype will be accessible in Mistissini starting in August. For more info: www.creetourism.ca