SAULT STE. MARIE -- Despite the state of the tourism industry due to COVID-19, a new tourism business in Sault Ste. Marie is looking to the future with optimism.

The owners of Thrive Tours are using the downtime to prepare for what they hope will be a busy summer.

Amanda Cora and Brad Robinson started Thrive Tours just as the COVID-19 pandemic began. While business is slow at the moment, the pair have been upgrading their credentials.

“We are updating our education, we have our wilderness first aid under our belts during this time,” said Cora. “We just finished our advanced interpretive guide courses, so we’re both certified in that. And just making a lot of partnerships in the city here in Sault Ste. Marie and beyond.”

Specializes in eco-tourism

Thrive Tours specializes in eco-tourism centred on Indigenous teachings and tradition.

“The stewardship that we always had in regards to showing people how to properly care for this land is always the first and foremost part of what we bring to the table,” said Robinson, who is optimistic about the summer tourism seasons despite the current lockdown.

“Once the lockdown is taken down and once we can get out, we really want to encourage people to come to this area and really see what this area has to offer.”

Thrive got its start thanks to the Millworks Centre For Entrepreneurship’s Starter Company Plus program. Millworks Small Business Coordinator Brad Senecal said they continue to attract a high level of interest from local start-ups.

“Just seeing the new businesses that are still interested in participating in the program, starting their business and getting to the point of let's create our business plan, so we’re planning for our future, we’re planning to really start something," said Senecal.

"It’s been really good to see.”

The Starter Company Plus program is open to all small business start-ups. It helps entrepreneurs with business plans and to access funding, among other supports.