Travelling public meetings to discuss the future of tourism in the NWT made a stop in Hay River on Nov. 26.
The Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment (ITI) is hosting public and stakeholder meetings on its upcoming Tourism 2025 strategy to succeed Tourism 2020, which will come to an end in March of 2021.
Hay River residents had a lot to say about tourism at the public meet.
Several talked about the need for Hay River to identify something that can distinguish its tourism opportunities from other communities.
Verna Woznica pointed to the success of Aurora Village in Yellowknife and how it attracts tourists from around the world.
“We need to find something that’s going to be our drawing card,” she said.
Woznica called it Hay River’s own “niche” in tourism.
Kathy McBryan expressed a similar opinion.
“I always figure, as a local community, we should have our own hook that will bring people to Hay River outside of the rest,” McBryan said. “All of us need to sit together and we all need to focus on that makes Hay River a special engagement place, outside of Yellowknife, outside of Fort Smith. An enhancement that only we have that we can offer.”
The wide-ranging discussion by 15 residents at the public meeting touched on other possibilities for growth in the tourism sector in Hay River. In no particular order, they included: fossils, dark skies, legends and stories, fishing, LGBTQ tourism, sports, conferences, Aboriginal cultural experiences, bird watching, Aurora Borealis, and working with Fort Resolution and Fort Smith.
ITI also held a separate session with tourism operators in Hay River.
Tourism 2025 – a roadmap for ITI’s investment and activities in tourism – will cover the period from 2021 to 2025.
The department spends over $5 million a year to support tourism.
Until Dec. 10, ITI will hold meetings around the NWT to hear from tourism and hospitality professionals, Indigenous governments, and the public on how it can continue to grow the territory’s second-largest industry.
Along with Hay River, public meetings have been or will be held in Fort Smith, Norman Wells, Inuvik, Yellowknife, Fort Simpson and Dettah.
Input will be analyzed by independent consultants and will be considered alongside research on industry trends.
The current value of the NWT tourism industry is $210.3 million a year, which exceeds the Tourism 2020 target of $207 million.