Four awards were given out in Inuvik at an NWT Tourism gala at the beginning of November to recognize some of the major figures in one of the territory’s few recent economic success stories.

Jimmy Kalinek, left, owner of Only Way Outfitting in Inuvik, dances with Amit Tripathi of Yellowknife Tours, Atanas Botev of Yellowknife’s Explorer Hotel, another man whose name wasn’t provided by press time, and James Pokiak from Pokiak Outfitting in Tuktoyaktuk. Bill Braden/NWT Tourism photo

The NWT had 108,500 visitors in the 2016-17 season, up 16 per cent from last year, who spent over $200 million in the territory—itself an increase of 21 per cent over the previous year.

“[The industry is] growing and it’s growing rapidly, and the number of tour operators that are being licensed is growing with that,” said Cathie Bolstad, executive director of NWT Tourism, which is the not-for-profit designated marketing organization for the territory.

After NWT Tourism members voted on a new board at their AGM, three awards were given through the organization and one by the GNWT.

Lucy Simon, the camp attendant at Sambaa Deh Territorial Park from Jean Marie River received the GNWT’s NWT Parks Hospitality Award.

“Our tourism industry is driven not just by attractions, but by personalities,” said Industry Minister Wally Schumann, citing Simon as one of those vital personalities.

The tourism operator of the year went to Yellow Dog Lodge, a 15 minute flight from Yellowknife, which has been included in Canada’s national tourism strategy, Destination Canada, as a “Canadian Signature Experience” consistently since 2011. Bolstad said this designation isn’t easy to get, and Yellow Dog is the only fishing lodge in Canada to have the designation.

The Service Excellence Award went to Mary Tapsell at My Backyard Tours in Yellowknife. Tapsell is a wildlife biologist who has worked throughout the NWT and Nunavut for 30 years, who was lauded for her “kind heart” and knowledge about the North’s wildlife, said Bolstad,

The Lifetime Achievement Award went to Marion Lavigne,one of the founders of both Outcrop Communications and Up Here magazine. Lavigne sold Outcrop earlier this year, and was recognized at the event for “40 years of putting the NWT as a tourism destination on the map,” said Bolstad.

“She’s just been involved in so many projects that are promoting tourism internationally on multiple platforms,” said Bolstad, citing Lavigne as the brains behind the Spectacular NWT campaign and its recent reboot, as well as the recent “Secrets” campaign, which gave out 150 round-trip tickets to the NWT from major Canadian cities while highlighting 150 of tourism’s “secrets” in the territory.

From left are Industry Minister Wally Schumann and the winners of the NWT Tourism gala awards: Lucy Simon, winner of the ITI Parks Hospitality Award; Margaret Peterson, accepting the NWT Tourism Service Excellence award on behalf of Mary Tapsell; Marion Lavigne, winner of the Lifetime Achievement Award; Gordon Gin, winner of the NWT Tourism Operator of the Year Award for Yellow Dog Lodge, his operation; as week as Susan Wright, chair of the NWT Tourism board of directors. Bill Braden/NWT Tourism photo

The campaign is a finalist for the National Marketing Award at the Tourism Association of Canada later this month.

“Never have we seen marketing results like we did with that campaign,” said Bolstad.

Proving a point about the value of the industry, NWT Tourism ended its AGM in Inuvik with a tour of the town, its stores, its greenhouse and the Igloo Church.

The organization spent $1,000 with each the church and the greenhouse, she said, and the delegates spent money in local gift stores.

“Tourism always has benefits that ripple into the communities, so we try to plan our conference so it would also ripple into the community,” said Bolstad. “I came home with a few Christmas presents and I’m sure so did many others,” said Bolstad.

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