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Inuvik unveils new tourism strategy

Tourism in Inuvik is more than just generating revenue — it’s about telling Inuvik’s story.
Shining in the dark, Inuvik’s new Gateway Sign serves as a beacon on the Dempster Highway. Inuvik unveiled its new tourism strategy Nov. 5 during an online Stakeholder Meeting. The strategy calls for the town to focus in on a specific breed of tourist to maximize the impact of tourism on the community and economy. Eric Bowling/NNSL photo

Tourism in Inuvik is more than just generating revenue — it’s about telling Inuvik’s story.

That’s the core philosophy behind Inuvik’s new Tourism Marketing Strategy, which was unveiled Nov. 5 online during a Tourism Stakeholders Meeting.

“The Western Arctic has been alive with people, culture, land and lore for millennia and now we’re inviting you to follow our footsteps and to create your own adventure,” said tourism director Jackie Challis. “We’ve been here and we’d be happy to show you the way and now it’s time for you to create your own story.

“That, when we talk about tourism branding, is where we want to go.”

The strategy is built on three pillars — attracting the right visitor, strengthening market practices and advocating for change. It draws from a vision of a future Inuvik “co-created by both the stakeholders and community members.” Underlying the strategy is a mission to grow the economy with tourism and development walking hand-in-hand, highlighting the unique cultures of the area while nurturing the environment.

To accomplish this, the strategy lists off five main objectives building on the community’s inherent strengths. First, expanding the town’s existing festivals to build on the community feeling that drives them. It seeks to attract “free, independent travellers” — people focused on hunting, fishing, hiking and other outdoor activities.

Showcasing Inuvialuit and Gwich’in arts and sports to make Inuvik a top destination for tourists seeking to learn more about Indigenous cultures in the Arctic is a third objective.

Utilizing the Midnight Sun Complex as a centre for conventions is part of the fourth objective, which seeks to turn the town into the preferred destination for such meetings. Lastly, the strategy highlights expanding on the scientific research being done in the Beaufort Delta to grow the community’s profile at large.

Challis said a lot of tourism strategies tend to look at environmental stewardship as an afterthought, but Inuvik’s built it right into the core of the strategy.

“It speaks to the appreciation of whose land we live on understanding the knowledge and the values of the people here,” she said. “We want to be able to build and tell our own story from our own people and then we want to share that. We want people to be inspired and we want people to be excited.”

With that in mind, Challis said the town would oriented itself to attract visitors who are mindful of environmental sustainability, seek to learn from the people they meet and are respectful of the places they visit.

Two years in the making, the strategy was technically finished and ready to launch in April last year — however, the Covid-19 pandemic effectively shut down tourism for the year and has kept it to a minimum ever since. With the strategy in place, Challis said the next step was for the town to begin reaching out to the world to be on top of mind when travel becomes more commonplace.

“Now we need to bring the story to life,” she said. “This is where I want us to work on is what are our priorities should be, how do we want to position ourselves. who should we be going after, what kinds of campaigns do we want to have? This is the kind of work that we’ll be working on over the next six months to a year.”

Other members of the stakeholder meeting praised the plan, with NWT marketing project coordinator Lorraine Brown saying it gave her goosebumps at least twice.

Challis deflected praise towards her team, consisting of marketing and communications coordinator Hannah Prestage and special projects and events coordinator Luisa Ospina Suarez.

“Luisa and Hannah do all the work,” said Challis. “I’m just the talking head.”

About the Author: Eric Bowling

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