After being forced to cancel amid the Covid-19 pandemic last year, Inuvik's Arctic Development Expo (ADE) is coming back with a vengeance and is slashing prices to attend or exhibit by hundreds of dollars.
Compared to the usual cost of $725 to attend as a delegate and $995 for an exhibitor or booth, this year it will only cost $75 to attend and an exhibitor's booth will only be $50.
To keep things safe amid the pandemic, which continues to surge around the world, the vast majority of the trade show will be conducted online by way of Zoom, with a few dignitaries pre-recording speeches to be broadcast during the June 15-16 event.
However, the trade show will be emceed live from the Midnight Sun Complex, and organizers are leaving the door open for some live guests should they put their names forward.
"Our conference host, Ollie Williams from Yellowknife, will be traveling to Inuvik and will be hosting all the sessions from the Midnight Sun Complex," said Tourism and Economic Development director Jackie Challis. "Our team as well as the host will have a central work room from where we will manage all technical aspects of the conference."
Ollie Williams is the head of news programming for Cabin Radio, which frequently publishes news stories about Inuvik from its Yellowknife bureau. He has previously hosted the Expo.
Performances, cultural showcases and virtual tours of Inuvik are also being put together for the weekend.
Education sessions being planned include a Food Security session discussing the role of Greenhouses in the North, potential uses for Biomass, Solar and Wind for energy production, Transportation and shipping lanes in the Arctic and Natural Gas in the Beaufort Delta.
Challis said moving a large gathering to a nearly completely online conference presents some significant logistical challenges, particularly with the many traditions and ceremonies that accompany the normally three-day gathering.
"Normally our three-day event takes places in multiple locations and venues and has many aspects to coordinate including conference sessions, pre-post networking events, evening galas, meals, concerts, and cultural demonstrations, a tradeshow arena, morning receptions and invitational breakfasts, community tours, youth events, public events and more.
"The challenge, like many events being held during these 'Covid-19' times, is trying bring delegates and exhibitors with us from the physical world into the virtual while still providing rich content and conference material and topics that are relevant, timely, and interesting enough for people to want to tune in and participate in this new format. I would say the biggest challenge is trying to cultivate the same arctic experience and northern hospitality that our Annual event is famous for, even though people cannot physically visit Inuvik at this time."
However, with those challenges come new opportunities with the digital format — particularly the potential to increase attendance with the dramatically reduced rates.
Noting the town had sent out over 100 invitations to speakers and has received a number of confirmations, Challis said the town was hoping to expand both the attendance of the conference but particularly from federal officials, who normally are in session during the event. Challis noted being able to attend digitally could mean greater attention from Ottawa.
"We are hoping to hear confirmation from a number of our Federal Ministers that they will be taking the opportunity to present to our ADE attendees," she said. "Having an online presence in a global, digital but targeted marketplace could be of great value to our local & regional businesses and organizations."
For more information as it becomes available, visit https://www.arcticdevelopmentexpo.com/.