It’s taken GRIT, but What a TRIP

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Following his retirement from mining, Ron Desjarlais an elder from the community of Łutselk’e decided it was time to follow his culture and his passion for the land by starting a tourism business in his traditional back yard.

While Ron’s years of experience navigating Great Slave Lake’s East Arm, leading fishing trips and facilitating cultural experiences make him ideal for this task, he asked ITI for help guiding him through the wilds of the internet, of global marketing, and of business management.

By accessing a series of GNWT programs since 2018/19, Ron has steadily increased his business acumen and improved the market positioning of Red Cliff Adventures.

The Government of the Northwest Territory Department of Industry Tourism and Investment (ITI)’s Growth and Recovery by Investing in Tourism (GRIT) program, was designed to help Tourism Operators dealing with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. In accessing this funding, Ron was able to reduce the per-person cost of his tours by getting a bigger boat, thereby increasing the number of guests he could accommodate on each outing.

Using funding from the Tourism Restart Investment Program, Desjarlais was able to hire Outcrop Communications to help him identify a new company name and brand that reflected the company’s purpose as well as playing into the beauty of the East Arm landscape. What had been “The East Arm Pop-Up Camp” became “Red Cliff Adventures”. This new brand was then paired with an updated web presence to help ensure that Red Cliff was accessible to adventurers from all around the world.

Finally, ITI’s Tourism Product Diversification and Marketing program allowed Desjarlais to develop a safety plan and to purchase tour equipment.


Working closely with ITI’s regional tourism staff throughout the pandemic, Desjarlais has been actively developing several aspects of his business. He has quickly become the first Łutselk’e resident, Indigenous-owned business to have both a GNWT Tourism Operator License and a Parks Canada business license that allows him access to Canada’s newest National Park Reserve, Thaidene Nëné, “The Land of the Ancestors”.


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