Status of Women, Finance and Industry, Tourism and Investment Minister Caroline Wawzonek was bustling with excitement when speaking of her tours of the Beaufort Delta.
“It has been phenomenal,” she said. “We’ve been all over. Everyone is really excited to show us what they’ve been working on. The level of energy has been really wonderful.”
Wawzonek was in the Beaufort Delta March 16-19 to meet with local governments and get a look at the facilities at work in the area. Aside from speaking to councils of the Hamlets of Aklavik and Tuktoyaktuk, she also got to see projects at the Aurora Research Institute, the Arts and Crafts Technology Micro-Manufacturing Centre (ACTMC), the Canadian Satellite Ground Station, the Western Arctic Business Development Corporation (WABDC), the Business Development Investment Corporation (BDIC) and the Inuvik Greenhouse.
She also spoke to the heads of the Gwich’in Tribal Council, Inuvialuit Regional Corporation and the Town of Inuvik.
Noting tourism took a huge hit in 2020, Wawzonek said most discussions she had in her tours of the Beaufort Delta focused around re-assessing strategy.
“When tourism does start to resume — which it will — what do we need to be even further ahead in?” she said. “So while there’s been challenges, people have that sense that now is the opportunity to plan and to build.
“There’s a lot of really good, future-oriented ideas here.”
“Very specific things ITI can do”
She added Industry, Tourism and Investment was looking into what it could provide for tourism initiatives in the coming year.
A takeaway from the trip she noted was the need for more communication across ministries. One possibility was through Education, Culture and Employment — establishing the needed training to expand capacity for tourism.
“There’s very specific things that ITI can do,” she said. “In terms of the funding we have, training programs and partnerships with the larger tourism organizations across the territory.”
Next step, she said, was implementing the Tourism 2025 strategy. It was supposed to be released in 2020, but was delayed by the pause forced by the pandemic.
However, she added the pause enabled ITI to go back and get a better assessment of what tourism operators need.
“We want to bring that out this next fiscal year,” she said. “See what the recovery looks like and see what the federal government does in terms of providing continuous support for recovery.”
Wawzonek also added a key part of economic development in the Delta was supporting the micro-business initiatives throughout the region.
She noted both the WABDC and BDIC were supporting people who had created their own jobs by recognizing opportunities for business and establishing themselves.
“There’s a lot of industry opportunities,” she said. “It’s clear there’s a strong spirit of entrepreneurship here.”