Polar Bear Blog

Churchill Wild co-founder Mike Reimer wins 2018 Travel Manitoba Award of Distinction

Churchill Wild co-founder Mike Reimer, winner of the 2018 Travel Manitoba Award of Distinction.
Churchill Wild co-founder Mike Reimer, winner of the 2018 Travel Manitoba Award of Distinction. Ian Johnson photo.

Churchill Wild is proud to announce that our co-founder and owner Mike Reimer has received the 2018 Travel Manitoba Award of Distinction.

The winners of Travel Manitoba’s 20th annual Manitoba Tourism Awards were announced on September 14, 2018 at a gala dinner at The Metropolitan Entertainment Centre by Canad Inns. The Honourable Blaine Pedersen, Minister of Growth, Enterprise and Trade, and Stuart Murray, Chair of Travel Manitoba’s Board of Directors, presented the awards, along with Travel Manitoba’s Invest in Tourism partners, and Ace Burpee of Winnipeg’s 103.1 Virgin Radio did a great job of keeping the crowd in warm soft stitches throughout the evening as the Master of Ceremonies.

The Manitoba Tourism Awards recognize outstanding contributions to the provincial tourism industry, including promoting Manitoba as a destination, providing memorable service to visitors and developing the tourism industry. The Travel Manitoba Award of Distinction honours an individual who has set an example that others can aspire to, providing customers, guests and visitors with exceptional experiences while also contributing to the professional image of Manitoba’s tourism industry.

A true entrepreneur and adventurer, Mike and his wife Jeanne were the first to offer walking safaris through the polar bear inhabited regions of northern Manitoba. From safe, on-the-ground polar bear encounters to an innovative way for people to meet wild beluga whales, to a remote Tundra Camp set up in the Barren Lands for an Arctic glamping experience, Mike’s insatiable curiosity for what is possible in Manitoba has kept guests intrigued and engaged here for the past 25 years.

Mike was unable to attend the awards gala for a variety of reasons many northern tourism operators would understand (logistics, snowstorms, uninvited cabin guests), while on the tundra west of Hudson Bay, but he did talk to us via satellite phone, and sister-in-law Shari, the Director of Logistics and Human Resources at Churchill Wild, gave an emotional speech on Mike’s behalf that really seemed to resonate with the crowd.

“Mike wishes he could be here,” said Shari. “He’ll be very excited to find out that he won. This is a very special honour and I know he really appreciates it.”

Shari relayed Mike’s often said sentiments, that receiving any award, and especially one as prestigious as the Award of Distinction, was only made possible by the help he and his wife Jeanne had received over the years from family, friends, staff and guests. “This was a team effort from the beginning,” said Shari. “And Mike is very thankful to everyone who has contributed to the success of Churchill Wild.”

A huge thank you was also given to Travel Manitoba for their long-standing support.

“They’ve helped us from the very beginning,” said Shari. “Going back to when my Mom and Dad (Doug and Helen Webber) first started. They’ve been an incredible resource for our family.”

Mike also wanted to congratulate fellow nominees Karly McRae, the managing owner of the successful Lakehouse Boutique Hotel, Arrowhead Family Resort and Danceland, and the founder of Clear Lake Country; and Steve Mymko, who spearheaded the campaign to build Buhler Recreational Park.

Shari ended her speech on a note that brought a resounding applause from the crowd, thanking the businesses and people of Churchill who have helped Churchill Wild become successful, and stating how wonderful it is that the town would soon be getting their railway back after going through more than a year and a half of hardship, and that repairs are underway!

“Manitoba’s success as a tourism destination is linked directly to the achievements of those businesses and individuals who have been recognized by the Manitoba Tourism Awards,” said Colin Ferguson, Travel Manitoba President and CEO. “What all of 71 nominees, 31 finalists and 11 winners have in common is the ability to offer exceptional service along with engaging and distinctive experiences that are the core of our province’s tourism industry.”

Churchill Wild extends a hearty congratulations to all the deserving nominees and winners (see list below)!

Travel Manitoba’s 20th Annual Tourism Awards – 2018 Winners (in bold) and Nominees

2018 Travel Manitoba Tourism Award winners. Congratulations!
2018 Travel Manitoba Tourism Award winners. Congratulations!

Aspiring Youth Award

  • Shonah Rathwell (Riding Mountain National Park)
  • Skylor Mitchell (Lac du Bonnet)
  • Rayna Topham (Minnedosa)

Event of the Year (Budget over $5,000)

  • Winnipeg Folk Festival
  • Brew at the Zoo – Assiniboine Park Zoo (Winnipeg)
  • Riding Mountain Pride

Event of the Year (Budget under $5,000)

  • The Poutine Cup (Winnipeg)
  • Gimli Glider Museum – Grand Opening
  • Winter Adventure Weekend & Heritage Hockey Game (Riding Mountain National Park)

Indigenous Tourism Award

  • Manito Ahbee Festival (Winnipeg)
  • Jasyn Lucas – The Gift of Art (Thompson)
  • Traditional Trails (Winnipeg)

Innovation Award

  • Third + Bird (Winnipeg)
  • Canadian Fossil Discovery Centre (Morden)
  • Design Quarter Winnipeg

Marketing Excellence Award

  • Winter at Lakehouse in Clear Lake Country
  • Outlet Collection Winnipeg Grand Opening
  • Winnipeg Folk Festival

Partnership Award

  • Skate The Lake and Minnedosa Minor Hockey
  • Buhler Recreation Park (Winnipeg)
  • Eriksdale Creamery Days Fair & Rodeo

Sustainable Tourism Award

  • Oak Hammock Marsh Interpretive Centre (Winnipeg)
  • Twin River Travel (various locations)

Volunteer of the Year Award

  • Cris LaBossiere (Falcon Lake)
  • Evenlyn Janzen (La Riviere)
  • Jordon Lanthier (Winnipeg)

Award of Distinction – Individual

  • Mike Reimer (Churchill)
  • Karly McRae (Wasagaming)
  • Steve Mymko (Winnipeg)

Award of Distinction – Business

  • Bill’s Sticky Fingers (Portage La Prairie)
  • South Beach Casino (Lake Winnipeg)

Nominations for the Manitoba Tourism Awards are submitted by industry peers and finalists and winners are selected by an industry-based judging panel. Winners received a trophy and the right to use the Manitoba Tourism Award symbol for advertising and promotion.

Travel Manitoba also recognized its Invest in Tourism Partners during the awards ceremony for their investment to support tourism marketing. These partners include: Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries, McKim Communications, Scotiabank, The Johnston Group, Winnipeg Airports Authority, Air Canada, Parks Canada, Canad Inns, Diageo Canada, Cabela’s Canada, Via Rail Canada, Winnipeg Free Press, Calm Air, and James Richardson & Sons, Ltd.

About Mike and Jeanne Reimer, Co-founders and Owners, Churchill Wild

Mike and Jeanne Reimer during the early days at Seal River.
Mike and Jeanne Reimer during the early days at Seal River.

Mike and Jeanne Reimer started out in the northern tourism business working for Jeanne’s parents Doug (Winnipeg Airports Authority Award of Distinction, 2012) and Helen Webber (an accomplished author along with Marie Woolsey, of the Blueberries and Polar Bears cookbook series).

Twenty-five years ago, they bought an abandoned whale research station just north of the Seal River on Canada’s Hudson Bay coast. Backed by Jeanne’s parents, their dream was to develop an ecotourism business starring polar bears and beluga whales, with a supporting cast of wolves, caribou, moose, wolverine, Arctic hare and fox, myriad birds and the beautiful flora of the tundra. They welcomed one paying guest in 1994.

Today, Churchill Wild is recognized worldwide as the pioneer of the planet’s only true polar bear walking safaris. Over 4,000 guests have experienced the life-changing adventure of meeting a polar bear at ground level from July through November at one of their three luxury ecolodges on the Hudson Bay coast, two of which are now members of the prestigious National Geographic Unique Lodges of the World collection.

Churchill Wild has won numerous national and international tourism awards for excellence, Mike and Jeanne have been elected to the Royal Canadian Geographical Society’s College of Fellows, and guests have become loyal evangelists for Churchill Wild’s unique brand of ecotourism.

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