Peter Magill is settling into his new job as a tourism and economic development co-ordinator, which is also a new position with the Town of Hay River.
Magill, who started work on Sept. 25, said his role is to grow the brand awareness of the town, and economic development and tourism in Hay River and the South Slave.
His job is mainly, but not completely, focused on tourism.
“I’m just researching funding in general just to see what can help promote the town, grow the town, and opportunities for businesses either existing or creating new opportunities for businesses to come in,” he said. “But predominantly my job is centred around tourism and how to grow that and our brand awareness to the world.”
The 54-year-old has a positive outlook on the town’s tourism and economic prospects.
“I think there is a lot of potential here,” he said. “We’ve just got to deliver it to the world.”
Magill said he has personally noticed a difference in the town since returning after several years in his home province of Ontario.
“I think the town has grown in the three years since I’ve gone away,” he said, pointing to the new health centre, the completed fire hall, new construction, more paved roads and upgraded sidewalks.
“It’s very noticeable having gone away and come back,” he said. “And there seems to be a very positive attitude in town about growth and tourism.”
Before leaving for Ontario, Magill worked for Buffalo Airways as manager of promotions and retail, and commuted to Yellowknife by plane each working day. That arrangement was because his wife was a teacher at Diamond Jenness Secondary School.
Magill said there are many things about Hay River that can attract tourists, including sandy beaches, its location at the end of a highway and rail line, and aurora viewing.
“We have the same opportunity for viewing the aurora as is available in Yellowknife,” he said.
In fact, he noted that in his first week on the job, 12 people from Asia could not find hotel rooms in Yellowknife, so they rented cars and drove to Hay River.
Magill said the waterfalls south of Hay River will also remain an attraction.
“We’ve got to promote and sell that, but I think we’ve got to tell people what else is beyond that as the main attraction to the South Slave region,” he said, pointing to Wood Buffalo National Park as an example.
Magill also sees potential in the upcoming Arctic Winter Games to promote the town and region, and encourage visitors to come back.
“I think a lot of people don’t really know what is in Hay River,” he said. “It seems to be kind of a little hidden gem in the Northwest Territories, despite the fact that we’re the second-largest community in the Northwest Territories.”
Part of Magill’s role is to man the winterized Hay River Visitor Information Centre, which as of this winter will remain open year round.
“I think having a visitor centre that’s open year-round is going to be a benefit to actually growing tourism,” he said. “We have a central place where we can talk about what is here, and there is a lot here.”
Magill said a year-round Visitor Information Centre will help promote activities that are outside of the spring, summer and fall.
Mayor Brad Mapes is optimistic about what a tourism and economic development co-ordinator will mean for the town.
“I’m pretty excited to have Peter Magill in there,” he said. “He’s got a lot of energy. I think he had another life as an energy bunny. I think he’ll bring a lot of his drive to stimulating the economy in Hay River and the region.”
Mapes explained tourism is the key to Magill’s role.
“His job is really tourism orientated, but we are going to try to use him a bit for stimulating new business growth and trying to attract some businesses to come to our community,” the mayor said.
The town has not had an economic development co-ordinator for over three years.
Mapes said town council back then didn’t see a need for the position.
“But definitely the economy looks better, the tourism side of it looks good and you’ve got to spend a little bit of money to make money,” he said.
Mapes noted that the Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment also helped by funding half the wage of the new tourism and economic development co-ordinator.
The mayor predicted that the new position will pay for itself in about two years.