‘Just enjoy the river’: boat rental businesses booming amid pandemic

KITCHENER – With many people thinking about safe outdoor activities amid the COVID-19 pandemic, local canoe and kayak rental stores are already booming.

Some stores in the Waterloo region have said they have been allowed to reopen under the latest relaxed restrictions, but others are taking their time to ensure the proper security protocols are in place.

Canoeing the Grand in Kitchener is planning a smooth opening in the coming days, with a full opening slated for mid-June. Owner Shelly Jo Holmes said the demand is already there.

“We get probably 75 to 100 calls a day,” she said.

A resident of Breslau said she hoped to kayak into the water soon, as she does every year.

“Take all the stress out of your week and just enjoy the river,” said Alison Cascagnette.

Meanwhile, Quinn Robertton has already booked an interim fishing trip for June 9.

“It was tough just sitting in your room all day and wanting to be on the water so I’m super pumped,” said Robertston.

Canoeing the Grand staff admit that business since COVID-19 has been anything but smooth sailing.

“It was the most difficult time of my life,” said Holmes.

Canoeing the Grand is building an outdoor office like they did last year and applying masks and disinfection protocols.

Staff will also use buses to transport clients to the point of departure to further space people during transport.

“To protect our drivers, instead of putting on a glass screen, everyone has their own screen (face),” Holmes said.

Grand River Rafting Company factories allow five people to be transported at a time, with plans to expand that capacity once restrictions loosen further.

“Everyone is spaced out. Launches go up every 20 minutes, ”said Garth Pottruff, owner of Grand River Rafting Company.

Grand River Rafting has offices in Guelph, Cambridge, Long Point and Paris. Between these four locations, approximately $ 75,000 of travel has already been booked for the summer.

Pottruff says that last year they booked 40,000 trips, with higher bookings during the pandemic year than during a typical season. They hope for the same this year.

“Let’s put it this way, we couldn’t tell a Saturday from a Wednesday because of our occupation,” Pottruff said.

Both companies are asking customers to book early to ensure customers get the rental they are looking for this summer.

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