Now is the time for all levels of government to commit money to a bigger and better visitors centre
The Northwest Territories is very fortunate to be a subject of fascination around the world.
The Northern lights, Dene and Inuvialuit culture, the unimaginably big fish lurking in some of the world’s most remote lakes, big-game hunting, epic kayak and canoe trips, camping, the midnight sun and the prospect of driving to the Arctic Ocean are all intoxicating draws for people south of the 60th parallel and beyond. This is apparent simply by the fact that more than 50,000 people went to the Northern Frontier Visitors Centre last year, up a whopping 400 per cent from 2007.
This is an incredible opportunity to grow the tourism industry.
With the Northern Frontier Visitors Centre set to close, Yellowknife needs a new pit stop for tourists. Unfortunately, the territorial government has only committed to finding solutions for a temporary location. This level of commitment is unacceptable. It’s high time for the territorial government to partner with the city in finding funding for a big, bright, inviting, informative visitors centre which incorporates a cultural aspect.
According to documents from the Northern Frontier Visitors Centre annual general meeting last week, a 1,000-square-metre building would cost between $3.7 million and $5.25 million. To compare, in January, the federal government announced it would cover 25 per cent of an all-weather road to Whati, which would help support a Fortune Minerals exploration project north of the community. This road is expected to come with an estimated $150-million price tag, which makes the cost of a visitor’s centre look like peanuts.
The territorial government needs to look at the potential of the tourism sector through the same lens it looks at diamond mines. There is potential to draw a lot of money not only into the Yellowknife economy but to the communities. And unlike diamonds, worldwide interest in the great wonders of this territory is a renewable resource.