If the city does nothing else other than move the visitor tourism centre from the cellar of Yellowknife City Hall to the deserted downtown mall, it will have earned my hard earned tax dollars.
I am not going to defend the present state of the mall other than to applaud the stores that remain open there. Nasty things are said about it and the people hanging around – people who are not shopping, sometimes misbehaving.
Another well-known problem is the two distant southern property owners who view only a red line on a giant corporate spreadsheet, figures that paint the picture of an empty mall. Seems the millions of lost dollars are too few to require either business analysis or thought, never mind remedies.
That stellar decision-making erected a steel and glass barrier that cut whatever traffic flow there was in half, one exit and entrance in the upper mall. To the top Toronto executives, I say this deserted glass dungeon is a failure of capitalism, an asset wasted by their managerial indifference, shareholders’ money too!
It must be noted for those suggesting RV parking is a must, RV tourism cannot scratch the surface of our tourism potential. RVers don’t need restaurants, hotels or anything but nice weather and stunning sights. Only the adventurous few venture past Peace River. As a matter of fact, I would wager $100 to the Salvation Army that there are more RVs going south from Yellowknife than RVs coming in from the rest of the world. One indicator is the numbers from North Slave parks: Fred Henne, Prelude Lake and Reid Lake. Seventy-five percent of those parks’ overnight visitors are from the NWT.
Out-of-territory tourism that was growing by leaps and bounds less than a year ago must be restored. In 2017-18, 41,500 Aurora visitors came North, spending $67.7 million. The next closest was general touring at $17.8 million.
The fact is, despite our obvious love of winter, Yellowknife is cold. The people we want to attract are those living in warmer climates, where, coincidentally most people on the planet choose to live. So it’s a big market that has and could again create good green jobs, good green businesses, even beyond Yellowknife to other communities.
The most attractive feature of the mall is that it’s heated. For many Aurora tourists, getting cold is part of the experience that makes sheltering in warm places feel so good. That’s a captive audience for tourism operators.
So make the mall a tourism showcase of art with murals covering windows now revealing the retail despair of empty shops. Show off and market Dene, Metis, Inuvialuit, and other Northern culture. Pretend to be a website and create traffic.
Success in such a strategy would benefit the mall shareholders but how to deliver that message to Toronto? Money talks. If the City of Yk makes a commitment to rent, it should ask for leave to help shape the surrounding retail environment. The huge windows lining the mall space are perfect for spectacular large-format photography. Northern creations and the work of our artists could be displayed on tables and shelving for temporary and affordable rent.
Modest profits would go to the mall shareholders, eating away at spreadsheet red until there is sufficient tourism traffic to justify renting the now abandoned storefronts at market rates.
All of this after Covid lifts, of course. Such a move by the city would be the catalyst for rebuilding the aurora tourism industry bigger and better.
A busy mall is a safe, attractive destination, unlike the threatening empty space that appears to many now. Make that the goal.
Doing nothing will reap nothing.