There should be no doubt the tourism industry has been the hardest during the Covid-19 pandemic of the last two years.

If one were to listen to the Town of Fort Smith in recent council meetings, the takeaway would be that the tourism industry “is over” and has no potential for recovery anytime soon.

With a closed territorial border, public health gathering orders shutting down events and facilities and a sharp drop in vehicle traffic from outside the territory, one could sympathize with Fort Smith Mayor Fred Daniels, who especially expressed pessimism over the industry’s future.

Hay River should not be so quick to throw in the towel.

While the devastation wrought by Covid-19 should not be underestimated in terms of its impact on people with tourism operating licences and those who indirectly depend on people coming to town, the feeling in this municipality ought to, and seems to be, a bit more promising.

On Monday night, council rushed to approve a $25,000 grant for filmmaker Kelvin Redvers, who is working on an upcoming feature film that, as of this week’s press deadline, was yet to be officially announced.

While some residents may be wary of the municipality doling out badly needed money to projects not originally accounted for in the budget, council’s flexibility in investing in one of its own sons is not the worst strategy.

More importantly, it should snowball into bigger things for the municipality to showcase the town’s attractiveness as a destination.

Redvers is a widely-accomplished filmmaker and broadcaster from town, and, at this point in his blossoming career, he sees enough promise in the visuals of our region to make a feature film for a receptive audience. That should be supported.

He will be in town for two weeks with a 20-person film crew spending money on hotels, restaurants and other venues battered by Covid, and he’ll be working with local filmmakers to help bolster the industry, which in itself has tremendous value.

While Redvers and company are visiting, the town would be wise to try to connect the dots and ensure that his presence with the coinciding Polar Pond Hockey Tournament — with NHL alumni and international viewers in tow — can be complementary and mutually beneficial.

By maximizing the Hay River buzz over the March 11 to 13 weekend, we hope some momentum can be created as the town hires a tourism and economic development coordinator by April, ahead of summer.

The community has quite a bit of wind at its back heading into 2022 despite the limitations the pandemic has presented.

As Donna Lee Demarcke, CEO for NWT Tourism told the Hub recently, tourism has been “globally hit, the hardest hit and will take the longest to recover in the Northwest Territories.”

Given this grim picture, the town needs to do all it can to help those struggling in the industry, have the flexibility to seize opportunities that present themselves and make hay while the sun shines.

Simon Whitehouse

Simon Whitehouse came to Yellowknife to work with Northern News Services in 2011. Simon obtained his journalism education at Algonquin College and the University of Ottawa. Simon can be reached at...

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