Tourism numbers in Canada’s Northwest Territories up 7 per cent

The aurora borealis near Yellowknife, in Canada’s Northwest Territories, on Thursday March 8, 2012. Five-year visitor growth in Canada’s Northwest Territories has been strongest with visitors from China (421% growth over 5 years) and Korea (142% growth over 5 years), mostly driven by wanting to view the aurora borealis. (Bill Braden/The Canadian Press)
Visitors to Canada’s Northwest Territories (NWT) numbered 120,000 people from April 2018 to March 2019, a 7 per cent increase from the previous year.

The numbers were announced on Thursday during the 2019 NWT Tourism Annual General Meeting (AGM) and Conference in Yellowknife which took place from November 5-7. 

“The record breaking tourism numbers reflect the hard work of the Northwest Territories tourism industry: the tour operators, the marketing agencies, the welcoming communities and multiple levels of governments,” said Katrina Nokleby, the NWT’s minister of industry, tourism and investment, in a news release on Thursday. 

According to government, tourism to view the aurora borealis had annual growth of 19 per cent both in terms of visits and money spent. 

Tourism around hunting and fishing grew 23 percent in terms of visitors. Spending increased 20 per cent around fishing and 23 per cent around hunting. 

Visits to the Inuvik-Tuktoyaktuk Highway, an all-weather 138-kilometre road that opened in 2017 joining the Arctic town of Inuvik with the hamlet of Tuktoyaktuk on the Beaufort Sea, increased by ten per cent.

Cars on the Inuvik-Tuktoyaktuk Highway in Arctic Canada on November 15, 2017. Annual growth in the number of NWT visitors in the 2018-19 fiscal year was mainly driven by Canadian travellers with 11 per cent growth year on year. (Melinda Trochu/AFP/Getty Images)

Canadian still make up the largest number of visitors to NWT (81,000 or 69 per cent of total visitors), followed by visitors of China 19,400 or 17 per cent of total visitors.

Spending growth

In the 2018-2019 fiscal year, NWT visitors spent more than $210 million according to the news release, a three per cent increase from previous years.  The territory’s Tourism 2020 strategy had targeted “growing the industry to $207 million by 2021.”

“As we continue to see growth, new opportunities are arising and the Government of the Northwest Territories will continue to ensure our residents benefit from tourism industry growth,” Nokleby said. 

Write to Eilís Quinn at eilis.quinn(at)

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Inuit association in Canada’s eastern Arctic to levy fees on tourism operators, Eye on the Arctic

Finland: Northern Finland’s tourism industry divided over flight tax proposal, Yle News

Iceland: Arctic tourism in the age of Instagram, Eye on the Arctic special report

Norway: Antarctic-to-Arctic ultra-luxury cruise announced for 2022, The Independent Barents Observer

Russia: Russian Arctic National Park director aims to boost tourism, The Independent Barents Observer

Sweden: Weak Swedish currency gives foreign tourists more spending power, Radio Sweden

United States: When the ice melts, what will happen to Arctic tourism?, Cryopolitics Blog

Eilís Quinn, Eye on the Arctic

Eilís Quinn is an award-winning journalist and manages Radio Canada International’s Eye on the Arctic news cooperation project. Eilís has reported from the Arctic regions of all eight circumpolar countries and has produced numerous documentary and multimedia series about climate change and the issues facing Indigenous peoples in the North.

Her investigative report "Death in the Arctic: A community grieves, a father fights for change," about the murder of Robert Adams, a 19-year-old Inuk man from Arctic Quebec, received the silver medal for “Best Investigative Article or Series” at the 2019 Canadian Online Publishing Awards. The project also received an honourable mention for excellence in reporting on trauma at the 2019 Dart Awards in New York City.

Her report “The Arctic Railway: Building a future or destroying a culture?” on the impact a multi-billion euro infrastructure project would have on Indigenous communities in Arctic Europe was a finalist at the 2019 Canadian Association of Journalists award in the online investigative category.

Her multimedia project on the health challenges in the Canadian Arctic, "Bridging the Divide," was a finalist at the 2012 Webby Awards.

Her work on climate change in the Arctic has also been featured on the TV science program Découverte, as well as Le Téléjournal, the French-Language CBC’s flagship news cast.

Eilís has worked for media organizations in Canada and the United States and as a TV host for the Discovery/BBC Worldwide series "Best in China."

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