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Aiming for $1 billion worth of tourism in Nunavut

Travel Nunavut sets out five-year objectives
An estimated 8,000 international travellers come to Nunavut each year, some of them to take in scenery like this, found in Arviat.

Travel Nunavut released a five-year strategic plan in 2023 that aims to have the territory's travel industry grow to a worth of $1 billion and employ 5,000 workers by 2030.

A not-for-profit membership association, Travel Nunavut reported revenues of $1.85 million in 2022-23, with the majority ($1.4 million) coming from the Government of Nunavut, followed by $297,202 from the federal government, $35,746 from memberships and $98,334 in other revenue.

The organization's biggest expenses were $416,796 for direct project costs, $349,210 for human resources, $239,599 for marketing, $216,605 for member services, $154,990 for office rent and equipment, $97,380 for board governance and $90,648 for administration.

Total membership comprises close to 145 tourism operators.

The organization encourages tourism development by providing specialized knowledge and expertise in marketing, research and communication, market readiness and advocacy.

Travel Nunavut offers a marketing assistance program, which provides up to $1,000 towards the cost of attending trade shows, brochures, advertising campaigns and other forms of marketing. In 2022-23, 67 Inuit-owned businesses, nine Northern-owned enterprises and six southern-owned businesses were approved for a total of $31,000 through this program.

Government budget

The Government of Nunavut has $1.3 million budgeted for "community tourism and cultural industries" in 2024-25, on par with the amount designated in 2023-24.

According to the GN's Budget 2024-25 Fiscal and Economic Indicators, past estimates peg Nunavut tourism at close to 50,000 visitors annually. Approximately half are on business trips and the majority of them are Canadians.

An estimated 8,000 international travellers come to Nunavut each year, primarily aboard cruise ships.

The number of cruise ship visits rose to 24 vessels in 2023 -- double the previous year. The 5,247 passengers made a total of 105 visits to 14 communities, with the latter two figures encouragingly surpassing pre-pandemic statistics.

Tourism employs an estimated 3,000 full-time, part-time and seasonal employees, according to the GN.

"While it is good to see the industry stabilize after the serious disruptions brought on by Covid, high fuel prices, skilled labour costs, and housing shortages have added to the industry’s difficulties," the territorial government stated.

Federal tourism minister pays visit

Tourism Minister Soraya Martinez Ferrada came to Nunavut in November to attend a Travel Nunavut conference. While in Iqaluit, she said acknowledged the hurdles that the territory has to overcome to further develop its tourism market.

"Not only the cost of travelling but also not getting enough airlines coming here and getting the infrastructure to have bigger planes and having other planes coming, not only to Iqaluit but, you know, to other regions of Nunavut," she said.

Prior to the Covid pandemic, tourism in Nunavut had an economic impact of $400 million in 2019 and it employed 3,000 people, according to Travel Nunavut.

Icy destination

The 319,411-square-kilometre Tuvaijuittuq Marine Protected Area in the High Arctic may become a tourist destination. Earlier this year, Nunavut's Department of Environment made a written request to Fisheries and Oceans Canada to allow specific tourism, recreation and outfitting activities under the Oceans Act.

The area in question is situated to the north/northwest of Ellesmere and Axel Heiberg islands.

"This remote region has the oldest and thickest sea ice in the Arctic Ocean. As sea ice continues to decline in the Arctic, the ice in this region is expected to last the longest," Fisheries and Oceans Canada stated.

About the Author: Derek Neary

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