We recently sat down with Jeana Schuurman, managing director of the Alberta Professional Outfitters Society to get an inside scoop on how the APOS and its members are currently dealing with the longer term effects Covid has had on the industry. What should hunters, guides, and industry professionals alike expect come this fall and into the future? Continue reading to find out. Link to their previous interview can be found below:
CW: I think it's safe to say that this past year was something that none of us could have predicted. With all of the unforeseen hurdles, what was the largest struggle your members experienced? How did they manage?
Jeana: The closure of the United States/Canada border has by far been the greatest struggle of the last year. In terms of coping, it has been tough for many of our members. Tourism operators are being advised to “pivot” to domestic clientele and although some outfitters have done so, this market generally does not suit the nature of our industry and the way that contracts and bookings are made. Some members were able to find a degree of relief with the government support programs. Being granted the ability to defer unused big game allocations into the future has provided a foundation to help support industry recovery in the years to come.
CW: How has the pandemic changed or influenced the role of collective associations?
Jeana: Through this last year, regular communication has been really important for me. I have definitely erred on the side of providing too much information, but many members have said the APOS emails helped them wade through the reams of public information to find the things most relevant to their businesses. Others mentioned that it was reassuring to know that the unique needs and issues affecting our industry were not forgotten in the face of so many different sectors voicing their own concerns. Going forward, my hope is that more of our outfitters will see APOS as a strong member-driven organization that can be a resource and benefit to them.
CW: How has this past year altered the way outfitters and associations alike are planning to operate into the future?
Jeana: The best “SWOT” (strengths, weakness, opportunities, and threats) analysis in the world could not have predicted what has happened over the last year. For our organization, I think the biggest leadership lesson that was highlighted was the need to be adaptable. For example, in March 2020 a remote board meeting seemed totally inconceivable, but by December we confidently hosted our annual general meeting on a digital platform.
You can’t predict everything that might come into your path, but don’t underestimate your ability to rise to the challenge. I think the pandemic will alter the future by showing organizations the breadth of what is really possible.
CW: "Post-Covid", is that too optimistic? What's next?
Jeana: Over the last few weeks, the situation here in Alberta has shifted. The dialogue is changing. With vaccine progression, relaxation of restrictions, and a strong push for the safe reopening of borders, it appears we are moving towards a post-COVID world. Those who know me might suggest I’m the wrong person to ask if something is too optimistic, as I tend to maintain a sunnier outlook... but truly this last month has been a breath of fresh air and feeling much more hopeful again.
What’s next? Members are eager to get back to doing what they love, welcoming guests from around the world to enjoy our beautiful province and world-class hunting opportunities. For APOS, I know an open border won’t be the end of the road; we will need to turn our attention to industry recovery and resilience. Communication and information delivery will continue to be really important.
The APOS board has worked hard to not lose sight of other priority initiatives despite the pandemic, but certainly some have spent more time on the back burner. We are looking forward to refocussing and re-engaging these initiatives again, while supporting members through the anticipated years of recovery ahead.