For two people who recently invested in a ranch west of Prince George with guest accommodations, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent travel restrictions threatened to end their dreams of living a back-to-the-land lifestyle.
Kevin and Maureen Woodhouse purchased Woodhouse Cottages and Ranch in the autumn of 2018 and immediately began settling into the rhythms of their new home, balancing the needs of their land while providing warm hospitality to guests from around the globe who were attracted to the serene setting. The global pandemic upset the flow of country life and disrupted the business’s cash flow.
“Through COVID-19, we had lost all of our international guests, weddings and events,” explained Maureen Woodhouse. “It was important to find an opportunity to reach potential guests within the parameters of COVID regulations. The NDIT grant helped us to connect with locals and, as COVID-related restrictions eased, our guest demographic expanded. The grant allowed us to move forward with the most important things for a tourism business – reaching our clientele. As locals needed a diversion from the isolation, they found us, in part due to the results of the marketing campaign.”
The grant Woodhouse refers to is a $14,025 Small Business Recovery (SBR) Consulting Rebate that Northern Development offered to businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The grant provided financial support for recipients to contract professionals to help navigate the pandemic and its unpredictable impacts. For Woodhouse Cottages and Ranch, a Prince George-based communications company created a comprehensive marketing plan which included videos, photographs and marketing connections for media releases and contacts. This allowed the Woodhouses, true farmers at heart, to focus on their strengths while learning from other professionals to strengthen their operations.
“Once the marketing began in earnest, it was then a cumulative effect,” said Woodhouse. “As guests found us, they then told friends and family and as restrictions eased, more guests found us from further away. In part, NDIT has been helping us expand and continue to build our business, with the groundwork in place for marketing and social media. Two years have passed and each year since receiving the NDIT grant, we have grown our business by over 30 per cent each year! A phenomenal number for a couple of farmers!”