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NWT Tourism has a record-breaking year

Tourists flocked to the Northwest Territories in record numbers in 2016-17.

More than 100,000 visitors made trips to the territory and collectively spent more than $200 million.

Dana Bowen/NNSL photo
Snow King Anthony Foliot stands in front of the Snow King Winter Festival snow castle yesterday afternoon during the grand opening. Employee at the castle Joel Maillot, right, steps through the newly cut out door.
March 1, 2016

That's a 16 per cent hike in the number of visitors compared with last year.

The largest share of travellers to the territory, about 32 per cent, came on business. The next largest group – just over a quarter of the total number of visitors – was here to see the Aurora, according to figures released by the Department of Industry, Investment and Tourism Monday. Aurora viewers pumped $50 million into the NWT economy last year.

“We do a good job at marketing our product, and sharing spectacular story,” said Anne Kokko, manager of research and planning for tourism and parks with department.

The GNWT funds online ads on Facebook, for example, and advertises the territory as a travel destination to people in Canada and overseas in newspapers, at trade shows and on television.

Tourism numbers are captured in several different ways, including through flights into the Yellowknife airport, and a visitor survey that yields about 3,000 responses every four years, said Kokko.

Tourists from Canada are the most common in Northwest Territories, followed by Americans, tourists from Japan, China, South Korea and Australia, in that order.

From 2015 to 2016, there was a significant spike in visits to territorial parks. Fort Simpson Territorial Park saw a 44 per cent rise in visits, Jak Territorial Park near Inuvik had a 32 per cent increase and visits to Hay River Territorial Park jumped 22.5 per cent.

North Slave fishing lodges saw a 7.1 per cent spike in demand for guided fishing trips, the first increase in five years, according to the tourism department.

“We know that our product is excellent, we have a high reputation, and great operators delivering consistently excellent experiences,” said Kokko, when asked why tourists choose the Northwest Territories.

The latest figures suggest the NWT is on its way to achieving its goal of having a tourism industry that generates $207 million annually by 2021, the department noted in a news release.

With a total of 108,480 visitors to the territory in 2016-17, tourism was up 16 per cent from 2015-16, when 93,910 people visited.

Visitors spent 21 per cent more in 2016-17 than the year prior, when they doled out $167.1 million.
Tourism is the territory's largest renewable-resource sector.