Inuvik, Canada, braces for surge in tourism

Inuvik’s new welcome centre should be completed by June. (Karli Zschogner/CBC)

Tourism officials and operators in Inuvik, N.W.T., are ramping up for an expected surge in bookings this summer.

“It’s looking good from our end, we receive all kinds of inquiries,” said Jackie Challis, director of  economic development and tourism for the Town of Inuvik.

“In the last month or so I’ve received at least two or three calls a day … of people planning their trip, saying they want to come this summer. And a lot of it is not just thinking about coming, but actual logistic planning.”

Jackie Challis, director of economic development and tourism for the Town of Inuvik, stands at the entrance to the new welcome centre in Inuvik. (Karli Zschogner/CBC)

Most of the calls are from people in southern Canada planning drives up the Dempster Highway, said Challis.

Parks Canada said it is seeing a lot of interest in bookings at some of its remote parks in the region

“It’s going to be a very busy year for us,” said Kyle Mustard of Parks Canada at a gathering of tourism operators and officials in Inuvik last week.

Parks Canada is working on the logistics of bringing elementary students from Inuvik and Tukoyaktuk for ‘Pingo Pride’ scheduled for this week and their youth camps in June, which had to pause for two years.

Tourism not just about numbers

If all goes according to plan, a new visitors’ centre, the Inuvik Welcome Centre, will be completed in June. In addition to visitors services, it will include office and retail space as well as a space for an arctic market.

“Tourism for Inuvik can or should not necessarily be just about attracting as many visitors as possible. What actually it needs to do is what is best to support the community on social levels, on economic levels, on cultural levels,” said Challis. “Looking at tourism as a tool for community development was the focus of the tourism strategy.”

Kylik Kisoun Taylor, founder of Tundra North Tours, said he’s already had so many bookings he’s turning people away.

“We could probably stop taking bookings today and have a great summer,” he said. “We’re really only taking on what we can do really well.”

Kylik Kisoun Taylor, the founder of Tundra North Tours, said he’s already had so many bookings he’s turning people away. (True North Calling)

Kisoun Taylor, an Inuvialuit beneficiary, said about 90 per cent of his employees are local Indigenous people. He said providing local jobs is a big part of the company’s mandate.

“The benefit has to be to the community,” he said. “If there is no benefit to the people that live here, there’s never going to be any sustainability.”

Kisoun Taylor said that over the years, he’s been moving away from what he calls ‘cookie cutter tourism.’ Now he caters more to visitors looking for longer, more immersive experiences. He said the company’s clients include schools, photographers and birding groups.

“We’ve said no to tons of people who just want the token brown guy to tour them around on a bus,” he said. “I’ll leave that to someone else.”

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Tourism of uncharted Arctic waters ‘dangerous’, says Canadian professor, CBC News

Finland: Finland’s proximity to Russia affecting tourism, including to Lapland, Yle News

Iceland: 10% of Iceland’s workforce employed in tourism, The Independent Barents Observer

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