Last year, the Northern Frontier Visitors’ Centre was shut down after the facility was deemed too unsafe to occupy. The Northern Frontier Visitors’ Association, which ran the centre, had been fighting a losing battle for several years after it was discovered the building was sinking into the marsh it was built upon. The association later dissolved and handed over responsibility for serving visitors to the city to the territorial government and city hall. The tourism centre has been run out of the basement of city hall for about a year. Mayoral and council candidates were asked what ought to be done to remedy the situation. Answers will be posted as we receive them.
Niels Konge, city council candidate
I think that this is best delivered by a group or organization, similar to what it was in the past. I feel it should be funded through the hotel levy, and be in the DT. The city hall location would continue to work for me, with staff funding through the hotel levy and administered by some group.
Robin Williams, city council candidate
Tourism growth is vital for the continued economic growth of the city. If elected I will work with my colleagues and administration to ensure the City takes firm control over our visitation responsibilities
William Gomes, city council candidate
The tourism industry in our city is thriving. In partnership with business owners, the territorial and federal government, our town has successfully attracted the larger number of tourists with revenue of $200M last year. Our hotel occupancy rate has gone up, including Air BNB and B&Bs than those previous years. To support this growth, I believe, we must include more knowledgeable front-line workforce through our hiring process, increase accessibility of more training resources for our business owners and other stakeholders, and provide a safer environment while the tourists are in our town exploring our cultural heritage and natural beauties. I want to ensure that a single tourist information center at the municipal level is meeting the needs in providing information to our guests.
Bob Stewart, mayoral candidate
I would be looking at opening a tourism centre either inside or adjacent to the museum.
Cynthia Mufandaedza, city council candidate
As tourism is key to our local economy, I believe in working closely in partnership with the GNWT and NWT Tourism. Since many northern cities are fighting to grow tourism in their cities, Yellowknife needs to continue to offer great information and services to our tourists.
Julian Morse, city council candidate
Administration is currently preparing options for a governance model for a new visitors centre for council consideration. I expect this to come forward early in the new council's term, at which point we can move forward with issuing a request for proposals to operate a new visitor centre downtown. I am supportive of getting a new visitor centre in place as quickly as possible, while ensuring the new model meets the needs of our tourism industry.
Rommel Silverio, city council candidate
Tourism is a vital component of Yellowknife economy because it creates jobs and generates revenues for many local businesses. When tourists come to Yellowknife, they spend money here and local businesses will generate income which is good to our economy. A proper tourism centre in Yellowknife will help tourists plan their trip and get the best experience of Yellowknife. Currently, the temporary location of the visitor centre is in the large boardroom on the ground level of City Hall. I am glad to see that the city has stepped in to assume the role of a visitor centre so that there will be no gaps in service to our visitors year-round. I support the allocation of resources towards a proper visitor centre that is safe and accessible to the tourists with friendly, courteous and knowledgeable staff. The visitor centre will be the primary resource for maps, brochures for tours, and information of what to do in Yellowknife. The City’s Tourism Strategy includes the establishment of a Destination Marketing Organization but until then, the city should continue to provide visitor centre services to the tourists. The city should also continue to work with different sectors of government and local businesses to strengthen and bring in more creative ideas to boost the city’s tourism industry and navigate through finding short and long-term solutions to the challenges we are facing.
Jerald Sibbeston, mayoral candidate
I have had a meeting with the executive director of the NWT Tourism Association. She conveyed to me that they prefer the original location by the Prince of Wales Heritage Centre. She felt there was better parking availability, and it was in a central spot near the largest hotels. She told me that the current location was much too small. I agree with her on all points.
But I still would like to look at turning the lower floor of City Hall into a tourism centre and department. It is time for Yellowknife to take ownership over our economic future. If city employees and MED no longer parked in the large lot near the building (disabled spots excepted for any staff that require a spot near the building), we could accommodate more public and visitors. If MED alone is made smaller, the space will become available for expanding the visitors center. It should be examined as an option. I frequently see tourists taking pictures near our big Yellowknife sign. I think both could be viable choices given the right circumstances. I would in the end, listen to the advice of industry.
Mark Bogan, city council candidate
Tourism is essential for Yellowknife. My plan is to reach out to the federal and territorial government and build a proper tourism centre on the 50 – 50 lot.
Edwin Castillo, city council candidate
The Yellowknife tourism industry estimates the average contribution from visitors to the local economy at $250,000 a day, which translates to over $90 million a year. So the importance of having a proper tourism center cannot be stressed enough. Input from all key stakeholders is needed in this venture. This entails collaboration and partnerships with the all levels of governments from the federal, territorial, indigenous as well as the chamber of commerce, hotel businesses, travel agencies, etc. to ensure not only Yellowknifers but the NWT benefits in the best way possible in the short and long terms.
Adrian Bell, mayoral candidate
I would like to move forward with finding a private-sector or NGO partner to operate a visitors centre in the downtown for the next three years, but longer term we need to think bigger and consider combining several functions together in a multi-purpose building - perhaps including a cultural centre and privately-leased art studios. Tourists need things to do when they visit. Let’s put a bunch of those things under one roof in a great location.
John Dalton, city council candidate
The taxpayers of Yellowknife should not be on the hook for the development of a tourism centre. As the capital of the Northwest Territories, the principal responsibility should rest with the territorial government. In the past, community tourism centres in the regions received more funding for a part-time operation than Yellowknife for a full-time operation. Having said this, Yellowknife needs a full time stand alone centre. Council should be involved in the decision as to who will run the centre and could provide some base funding, either in-kind or funds.
Stacie Smith, city council candidate
Ensuring that a tourism centre is present in Yellowknife is not on the shoulders of one councillor, it is the decision of council as a team. As an up and coming tourist location, Yellowknife needs to have the proper facility to house a tourist centre. This means pushing to have this complete before the next term election cycle.
Shauna Morgan, city council candidate
We are already well on our way toward a new visitors’ centre, which will be located downtown and based on a partnership model with a well-positioned organization such as the Yk Chamber of Commerce. It will continue to be jointly funded by the GNWT and the City. This new streamlined approach was recommended by an independent expert who consulted stakeholders and presented a report to council this past summer. The centre will be designed so it can later accommodate the offices of a Destination Marketing Organization, to be funded by visitors themselves through the proposed accommodation levy, so that we can get more serious about growing our very promising tourism economy.
Dane Mason, city council candidate
Council unanimously approved a new strategy, including opening a downtown visitors centre, on August 13, 2018, so the questions isn’t if, it’s when. I’ll be in favour of making it happen ASAP.
In the meantime, there are plenty of other initiatives we can do for the tourism market. While the aurora brings people up here, the biggest driver for increased visitors is the stories travellers tell of their experience when they go home.
Focusing on cleaning up derelict and abandoned lots, ensuring that a variety of accommodations are encouraged in the city’s growth, and providing amenities such as increased WiFi zones and access to public washrooms will do this. I have included cost-neutral options for these in my platform.
Rebecca Alty, mayoral candidate
The first step is to identify a third-party operator for a re-launched Visitors Centre – with funding coming from the city and GNWT. One of the focuses I’d like to see is an increased digital presence in relevant markets, and better data collection on visitors. We can also work with our partners – CDETNO, Chamber of Commerce, GNWT ITI and the business community – to ensure we are offering quality tourism services in Yellowknife.
Chris Gillander, city council candidate
To ensure a proper tourism center in Yellowknife, the city must work in collaboration with the GNWT and federal government. I plan to lobby on behalf of the city and the local tourism industry to accomplish this. There has been talk of retaining the existing infrastructure but, if this cannot be accomplished we must make its replacement our priority.
Terry Testart, city council candidate
The city should be working with strategic partners to develop an appropriate tourism centre in the downtown core to serve the large number of tourists that visit the city. An ideal location for the tourism centre/conference centre may be in the Centre Square Mall.
Josh Campbell, city council candidate
I would suggest mayor and council re-engage the Northern Frontier Visitors Association, and find a new location for them to operate out of. Now that the GNWT has secured/fixed the old facility, perhaps ask what the feasibility is of the association moving back in. Also, I would engage our tourism operators and find out what is a better location for a visitors centre. I don't have a silver bullet solution, but I would definitely suggest we get a short list of locations from stakeholders, including our neighbours with the GNWT with the Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment.
Yellowknife really should be the gateway for our Asian market and Aurora tourists. We also need to have a place to share materials and promote our other NWT communities such as Deline, Fort Smith, Hay River, Inuvik and Tuk.
We should also have a satellite office/booth at the airport. As outlined in my platform extending the runway at YZF is a must to boost our tourism sector. With that, a tourism booth should be at the airport to support an influx of tourists flying into the capital region. The city should be a point of contact or liaison between the different stakeholders.
Steve Payne, city council candidate
We need to lobby the GNWT to increase funding for the visitor center. I think there is a way to make the tourism operators in Yellowknife come on as partners for lack of a better word to share in the operating cost of a new facility.