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NWT Tourism turns to Mexico

Meaghan Richens/NNSL photo. Cathie Bolstad, CEO of NWT Tourism at a funding announcement on Wednesday.

As part of ongoing efforts to attract foreign visitors, NWT Tourism will be heading down Mexico way.

“Just as much as we Northerners are fascinated about those sunny locations, Mexicans are actually quite interested in the Rockies and touring the North, Banff and seeing auroras,” said Cathie Bolstad, CEO of NWT Tourism.

While NWT Tourism is currently marketing the North as a travel destination in China, Australia, Japan, Germany and South Korea, new federal funding is allowing the territory's destination marketing organization to look towards Mexico.

Representatives are gearing up for a trade mission to the country in the fall.

Cathie Bolstad, CEO of NWT Tourism at a funding announcement in April. Meaghan Richens/NNSL photo

Why Mexico?

NWT Tourism is closely partnered with Destination Canada, a Crown corporation marketing Canada internationally.

According to data from Destination Canada, 359,000 Mexicans visited Canada in 2017, an increase of 47 per cent over the previous year.

The increase was due to travel visas being replaced with electronic travel authorizations (ETAs) for Mexican visitors in December 2016, explained Bolstad.

Right now, most Mexican visitors to Canada are travelling to British Columbia and Alberta, she said.

“Since we work collaboratively with both B.C. and Alberta in bringing and encouraging itineraries that involve a trip North, this market is of interest to us,” said Bolstad.

Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver are all gateways to the Northwest Territories because they offer direct flights to Yellowknife.

And while Mexican travellers prefer to visit in the summer, they “express interest” in visiting during the winter according to a summary of the 2019/20 NWT Tourism Marketing Plan from the Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment.

“As part of the research findings from Destination Canada’s 2017 Global Tourism Watch research program, 43 per cent of Mexicans identified northern lights as being an important enough activity to base their entire trip around, followed closely by natural attractions like mountains and waterfalls,” states a post on the department's website.

The mission

Bolstad wouldn’t say whether diplomatic tensions between the United States and Mexico are anticipated to affect the itineraries of Mexican travellers.

“We’re not looking at that specifically,” she said. “We’re looking at who are the Mexican visitors that are coming, where are they going, does the route that they’re travelling and the kind of experience they’re choosing suggest that they are a fit and a market for us.”

The five-day trade mission in September will be about bringing buyers and sellers together and some of the territory's tourism operators will also be making the trip to market their products, she said.

“There will be probably three, what we would call training opportunities or seminars put on by NWT Tourism,” said Bolstad.

The seminars will help educate travel agents in Mexico about travel routes to the NWT, what the connections are, and what tourism products and packages are available.