Visitors will be travelling the NWT over the next two weeks asking for people's wish lists. No, they aren't Santa's elves – they're GNWT bureaucrats working on the territory's next five-year tourism plan.
"We're really excited to be doing this and, so far, the feedback that we've heard has been really encouraging," said Nancy Mullick, manager of tourism industry services for the Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment (ITI). "In the communities, we'll be asking what we've done right and where we can improve."
The next five-year plan, the fourth consecutive of such plans that the GNWT has made, will direct its investments and partnerships throughout the territory's tourism industry.
Mullick highlighted a couple key features of the last five-year plan, which may indicate the sorts of projects that could be encouraged in the new plan.
The Community Tourism Infrastructure Contribution led to a project, which began in January, to expand Hay River's Fisherman's Wharf to a year-round facility with heating and electricity, rather than just a seasonal strip of vendors operating in the open air.
As well, starting in April, Namushka Lodge began accepting its first guests since it was razed by fire in 2016. The department's Tourism Product Diversification and Marketing Program, to which operators can apply for infrastructure support, helped with the rebuild.
Tourism forms a major part of the government's efforts to diversify the economy.
"The GNWT is confident that with strategic planning, support and guidance, this sector can foster new jobs, small business ventures, investments in community infrastructure and services – and will serve to both promote and preserve our territory's rich environment, history, cultures and traditions," stated Katrina Nokleby, the new minister of ITI, in a press release announcing the community sessions.
The GNWT will hold separate events for industry stakeholders and the general public.
Each is to have two department staffers and a facilitator present, and they are to be open to input from everyone with an opinion, she said.
Leading up to these sessions, the department held sector-specific sessions with representatives from various facets of the industry, such as aurora viewing and paddling, earlier this month at NWT Tourism's annual general meeting.
There are also two online options for providing feedback, one of which is a survey and the other is a more open-format discussion forum.
The current tourism strategy expires next year. The value of the industry has hit $210.3 million per year, up from the goal of $207 million set in the existing document, and tourism traffic has increased 43 per cent to 120,000 annual visitors.