1000 acres per guest meets social distance rules

TEMISCAMING, Que. — Tony Avramtchev, GM at Beauchêne Wilderness Lodge, a premium luxury drive-to fishing resort, has been fielding calls from affluent urbanites seeking a safe, remote setting with excellent food and creature comforts. The lodge could easily accommodate 50 guests in the 50,000-acre wilderness preserve.

When CLN caught up with Avramtchev on May 7, he had just received permission from the Quebec government to start the reopening process. Staff were starting to show up, and the maintenance crew had started raking up in hopes that opening day will come sooner rather than later.

“The response has been surprising to say the least,” Avramtchev said. “We didn’t expect the phone to ring much after March 15, but a week or 10 days later, we started getting calls.” While the resort’s traditional guests are anglers who have done well for themselves, or CEOs and their teams on business retreats, these calls have been from people in Montreal and Toronto who are outdoor enthusiasts looking to come up with their families to a place where they can be outside and safe from COVID-19. The luxury cabins have been rated five star by Tourisme Québec and the Federation of Anglers and Outfitters and the resort has won a number of awards. Abramtchev calls the Beauchêne experience “roughing it in velvet.”

Beauchêne Wilderness Lodge has long been popular among anglers and wilderness lovers across North America and Europe thanks to its 50,000 acres, 40 lakes and secluded luxury cabins. “Social distancing is not very difficult here,” Avramtchev said, noting that anglers can actually rent an entire lake for the day, and be the only people fishing on that lake.

“There’s 100 to 200 yards between the cabins, and private docks overlooking the lake. There’s also four-star accommodation and a lodge rated at four stars, plus three outpost camps that can be accessed by water or are on their own lake.

“We’ve been well-known across Europe and North America for fishing, and hunting is a small part of our business. We were pioneers of the catch and release rules. We have guests who have been coming for 43 years. People tell their friends about a trip to Canada, to Québec, to Beauchêne. Even if you’re not an angler, there’s lots to do — wild beaches, paddle boards, mountain bike, kayaks and canoes, birding or just walking the trails in the bush.”

The resort is located near Temiscaming, Que., less than five hours from Toronto and less than seven hours from Montreal.

Avramtchev said they are optimistic about the summer, and they’re getting ready. “We’ll probably lose some guests who are older and not sure about travelling, but we’re attracting people who want their families to be safe in the wilderness environment.”

Beauchêne has a restaurant called the White House, and historically the luxury chalets include a meal plan. “We might be flexible on that, tailoring our packages so they are à la carte,” Abramtchev said. “Non-anglers might not need boats,” which are usually part of the package. The restaurant may be able to operate if they keep it to 50 per cent capacity, which is perfectly doable.

“The phone is ringing and bookings are still solid. We will lose business until we are allowed to reopen. The Association has been pushing for May 15, which coincides with walleye season — we hope it will be June 1 at the latest.”