The president of the Northern Frontier Visitors Association has resigned from his role, a move that comes less than three months after the visitor’s centre building at Frame Lake was shuttered.
Kyle Thomas announced his departure on July 14 to the association’s board, he told Yellowknifer, citing a need to get his own work back on track.
“As a self-employed person, the last three months has been a chaotic ride,” he said. “I need to regroup and look at how I want to keep investing in the industry and what’s best for it – look at the big picture.”
The visitor’s centre, which saw 50,000 people pass through its doors last year, has received a flurry of attention since structural issues caused by frost heaving forced its closure May 15.
In the days leading up to that date, a group of Yellowknife MLAs urged the GNWT to foot the bill for relocating and running the centre from a temporary location – an option that was expected could cost millions.
Both the City of Yellowknife and GNWT provide annual funding to the visitors association, although merchandise sales accounted for most of its revenue last year.
The city found an extra $17,000 to help the visitor’s centre with a temporary solution, but instead the GNWT offered to move visitor information to a single desk at the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre.
At the time, Thomas said meetings around these decisions had him “at the end of my rope.”
Two of the visitors centre staff were ultimately laid off and those who remained packed up sculptures and souvenirs from the visito’rs centre and locked the empty building behind them on their way out in May.
Since then, the association has faced a barrage of criticism from local business owners who claim retail at the centre has caused market disruption and hurt their success over the years.
Thomas added this fact contributed to his decision to step aside, although he said he did make efforts to work with local businesses.
“It took me a lot to make the decision because I care a lot about the tourism industry in this town,” said Thomas, describing the “hit” things have taken on him recently, both “mentally and emotionally.”
With visitor services now located at the museum and no new discussions about the visitor’s centre’s future taking place recently, according to Thomas, he said he saw now as a better time to step back.
For now, Thomas said the leadership role falls to the board’s vice-chair, Ian Henderson.
Henderson stated in an e-mail the board will consult with members about the association’s future.
Thomas added he is open to coming back to the association and continuing to work with them.
“I’m still very passionate about tourism in this town and I do not want to walk away from it,” said Thomas. “I just saw an opportunity to regroup a little bit for myself and I’m taking it.”