More collaboration is needed between all stakeholders to improve tourism, which will have an improvement on investment, prices and other facets of life in the Beaufort Delta region.
That was the conclusion of a roundtable discussion held Nov. 21 and 22 at the Midnight Sun Complex. GNWT Industry, Tourism and Investment held the talks throughout the delta to get local input on where its tourism priorities should be.
“There’s going to be various impacts (from tourism),” said research analyst Sergey Mazuritsky of DPRA Canada, who chaired the meeting. “What we’re hoping to do is ensure there’s more positive impacts than negative ones. It’s not about just making more tourism, but making better tourism for everyone involved.”
Residents, businesspeople and government officials traded ideas on how to improve the tourism experience for both customers and residents, noting the importance of having interactions between locals and visitors.
Other benefits include bringing people of different cultures together to help bridge understanding of local issues, such as in the case of seal hunting. Outside interest in local cultural practices also helps encourage those activities, such as with drum dances which have seen an increase in local interest.
“Tourism allows stories to be told,” said director of economic development and tourism Jackie Challis. “Told by the people that live here. Told by taste. Told by culture. Told by demonstration and arts and crafts. That exchange is why people travel, but to share that story not only benefits the person coming to visit but also allows community members to expand and build upon the story they already have.
“Tourism is about sharing your food. It’s about storytelling, it’s about showing them picking fish from your net. It’s arts and crafts and sharing how we heat our homes up here.”
Some barriers to increased tourism listed during the discussion included the seasonal nature of the industry, the cost of supplies and developing facilities, hiring and keeping trained staff and encouraging people to see tourism as a viable career option.
Potential effects to traditional ways of life due to more tourists is also something brought up as a concern to keep in mind in future tourism planning.
Another major issue was the condition of the Dempster, particularly on the Yukon side. Residents noted that more of a partnership is needed between Beaufort communities and the communities of Dawson and Old Crow to cross-promote.
Increased traffic and a higher demand for public services are of course a challenge that comes with more tourism. Challis noted from meetings she had attended on the subject in Yellowknife, most of the conversation there was over Aurora tourists and the volume of operators and tourists.
“Let’s just hope it gets really busy and we have that problem,” said Lawrence Neyando, who operates Arctic Motorcycle Tours.
Anyone who missed the meeting but wants to provide input can do so online at www.engage-it.ca/talktourismNWT