October 10, 2018
Tl’lyahda - Making it Right
Seven years can be considered an itch from a matrimonial standpoint; or bad luck if you just broke a mirror; while the significance of the number seven can reflect the colours in a rainbow, the days in a week, and in numerology, a symbol of perfection, security and rest.
Seven years ago, the air at the end of Beitush Road, along the winding Tlell River, was thick with anticipation, expectation and a bit of apprehension. The old Tlell River House was about to re-open its doors, but this time as the newly transformed Haida House at Tllaal: a Haida-owned lodge specializing in all-inclusive cultural packages. The building itself would not change all that much but its raison d’être would. Interesting note, “Tllaal” is the Haida word for Fireweed.
A bit of background. Built in the 1980’s, this 10-bedroom post and beam lodge saw years of success as a privately run Inn and restaurant. In the late 2000’s, new owners moved in, renovated, and converted the lodge into a trophy bear-hunting lodge. For obvious reasons, this did not bode well with the majority of the Island’s citizens. By 2010, in response to the CHN’s House of Assembly resolution calling for the end of the recreational bear hunt on Haida Gwaii, the Haida Nation’s Economic Development Corporation, HaiCo, purchased the 8-acre property and subsequently retired the last two remaining commercial licences held by the lodge, forever.
The 2012 transformation from a resource-extracting lodge to a cultural eco-tourism entity had begun. There was a lot at stake for the Nation and a lot of expectations from the communities.
Over the past 7 years, the Haida House has managed to find an equitable balance between providing memorable cultural experiences to visitors, while delivering employment and educational opportunities to the Island communities.
The Haida House invests significantly in local employment by way of offering ‘hands-on’ Food & Beverage and Hospitality Management training onsite, while supporting a cornucopia of home-grown entrepreneurial contributors such as adventure excursions, Haida cultural interpretations, nature conservation tours, culinary, artisanal, and educational partnerships.
The Haida House sister companies include the newest fly-in sister lodge, the Ocean House at Stads K’uns GawGa in Peel Inlet, Taan Forest in Skidegate, Haida Wild Seafoods in Masset, Westcoast Resorts in Englefield Bay and Hippa Island, and the Kay Bistro at the Kay Llnagaay Heritage Centre, all of which are operated under the umbrella of HaiCo with offices in Skidegate, Old Massett and the Lower Mainland.
Constantly evaluating its performance in the broader perspective, the Haida House strives to embody a ‘triple bottom line’ philosophy, where it measures success through the lens of social responsibility, economic value and environmental impact. In other words, People, Profits and the Planet.
Striving to maintain this integrity and focus, the adjacent property was purchased in 2015, adding another 44 acres of pristine, environmentally sensitive land to the Haida House’s existing 8 acres.
The award-winning dining room is open to the public from May to the end of September, offering a fusion of contemporary fare with a focus on fresh, healthy and local; the Xaayda Gud Ad Is Naay (Gathering Room) sees its fair share of shoulder season yoga retreats, art exhibitions, community meetings and catered conferences. And then there’s the staff… they are the genuine stars of the Haida House. Many of them are marking their 7th year with the company. Their smiles, charm, authenticity, generosity of spirit and commitment to the job elevate this modest lodge to a service level that has won the Haida House many industry honours including the National Aboriginal Tourism Award.
Seven years later. Let’s reflect…no break up, no bad luck: just a feeling of learning from experience, of commitment to making things right, and basically working hard. These are the principles that underscore the dedication to service that has garnered the Haida House seven consecutive “Where to Eat in Canada” awards and seven TripAdvisor “Tourism Excellence” praises, as well as two Indigenous Tourism BC “Accommodation and Services” awards and a Gold standing in the “Green Tourism Canada” program.
The Haida House is indebted to its guests, staff and community partners. It has found its rhythm, and its success is largely due to the steadfast support and encouragement from the folks of Haida Gwaii and the generosity of its visitors.
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