Hypothetical situation: The COVID epidemic is over and we are all free to travel again. You’ve been saving up for a vacation to someplace magical to witness the wonders of nature, maybe swimming in a lagoon, exploring an old growth forest or checking out some ancient, irreplaceable architecture.
As you begin to make bookings, you discover the place you’ve got your heart set on seeing charges tourists a fee to help preserve the wonderful world they are visiting.
Do you a) Pay the fee and go enjoy your vacation or b) Lose your mind over having to spend money you were going to spend anyway and cancel the whole thing?
The idea of charging an environmental fee was brought up in the presentation of the Tourism Strategy — presented to the Town of Inuvik April 24 over a group chat.
This report was intended to spark a discussion, and to some extent it has, except in my view it’s the wrong one. The concept of charging visitors a fee to cover their ecological footprint was immediately called a tax — for some the most obscene word in the English language.
I wonder if they would respond as passionately if it was, say an airline increasing the cost of a ticket instead. At least with government you have a right to see where the money is spent.
Probably the most striking thing to me, having attended one of the live sessions and following the survey’s updates, is that the people who have chimed in at the end of the process were largely absent during the rest of it.
Let’s be realistic. Anyone coming up here should be prepared to bring a lot of money — $100 is a light trip to the grocery store. If you want to buy a few souvenirs at the Arctic Market you’re probably looking at a similar prices.
Something that was brought up repeatedly at the planning meetings was a desire for the “Right kind of tourist” — someone who respects the culture they are immersing themselves in and is not just here to party. Someone who isn’t going to ignore signs saying “Stay off the Pingos” just to get a selfie. Someone who isn’t going to cancel their plans because of an environmental fee to preserve the area they are visiting.
We’re not drawing the Spring Break Frat party crowd. We’re drawing people who want to see Auroras, Polar Bears, Inuvialuit and Gwich’in culture, and the Arctic Ocean. If $100 is enough to make that desire go away, they probably weren’t going to bring in a lot of revenue anyway.
Lastly, the point was made that we need investment in our infrastructure to draw more tourists in. If we aren’t paying for that with some sort of revenue, it’s going to have to come from taxpayers elsewhere.
Just imagine what a reluctant taxpayer down south would say if they had to come up with an extra $100 to help Inuvik develop its tourism.