As Canada Day is the one and only day where you are able to enjoy a cold beer on a hot day on a patio in Inuvik, I made sure to stop by the Inuvik Legion McInnes Branch 220 for their beer garden.
Considering we’re at the height of our tourism season and people who are able to afford $200,000+ battle-campers are coming down the Dempster by the hundreds with mouths full of trail dust, this may be a missed opportunity our resurfacing hospitality industry may want to consider. I’m sure locals would appreciate the opportunity to enjoy a patio as well.
As the gateway to Tuktoyaktuk, Inuvik is clearly a major tourist attraction. As we’ve documented thoroughly, Fort McPherson and Tsiigehtchic are both filled with wonderful people who are happy to help travellers along the way as they recover physically and mentally from the Yukon side of the Dempster, realizing they have to drive it again on the way back. But Inuvik is the first place to have hotels, a fully stocked grocery store and the general amenities where you would expect to rest, resupply and repair your equipment on a long road trip — or at least so we claim.
If Inuvik is as serious about being a tourism mecca as it claims to be, we do need some key infrastructure for our guests. This infrastructure would also benefit us locally year round.
Probably first and foremost in my mind is a dedicated public washroom at Chief Jim Koe Park. The port-a-potties are a temporary fix, but in reality when we are having public feasts and barbecues we should also have a station for people to wash their hands and face. It seems inevitable the current facilities get cleaned at the height of a festival, forcing anyone who comes out for the celebration to cope with the smell. Considering the utilidor system is accessible from the park, the smell of the port-a-potties seems like a wholly unnecessary story to send our tourists home with.
A public washroom would also benefit our unhoused people, who also have a right to a clean bathroom they can wash their hands at. Currently people living on the streets are relying on spare port-a-potties, many of which aren’t even stocked with toilet paper or hand sanitizer. This isn’t just a luxury — it’s a human rights issue.
Another factor we should consider if we’re serious about tourism is that the weekday-weekend split means nothing to tourists. They’re on vacation. They don’t care if it’s Tuesday, they want to do something interesting in the time they have. There should be something happening in Chief Jim Koe Park every day. People are driving up here to see Beaufort Delta culture, so we should give it to them. Inuvialuit Drummers and Dancers could practice under the pavillion during the week and the Gwich’in Tribal Council could sponsor hand game competitions, which would delight anyone who just drove the Dempster.
Similarly, why only hold the Arctic Market on Saturdays? I’ve spoken to at least 10 tourists this summer who told me they would have spend hundreds of dollars at one if it matched up with their schedule, but were only in town during the week. The town maintains a waiting list of vendors for each market, so there is no shortage of products available to host. There should be at least a mid-week market during the summer to accommodate the tourists driving up here.
If we want to be a tourism goldmine, we need to start thinking like one.