Nunavut sets out plan to manage increased cruise ship tourism

“It must not exhaust local and territorial management resources needed to organize and control it”

By LISA GREGOIRE

Lindblad Expeditions' National Geographic vessel, pictured in the background, sailed to Grise Fiord in 2015 with 148 tourists aboard. The Nunavut government plans to introduce new laws and regulations to manage the increase in cruise ship and pleasure craft traffic through its waters. (PHOTO COURTESY OF LINDBLAD EXPEDITIONS)


Lindblad Expeditions’ National Geographic vessel, pictured in the background, sailed to Grise Fiord in 2015 with 148 tourists aboard. The Nunavut government plans to introduce new laws and regulations to manage the increase in cruise ship and pleasure craft traffic through its waters. (PHOTO COURTESY OF LINDBLAD EXPEDITIONS)

With cruise ship traffic growing through Nunavut’s increasingly accessible Northwest Passage, the Nunavut government is getting serious about marine tourism with new laws and regulations coming down the pipe.

In a report tabled by the Economic Development and Transportation Minister at the Nunavut legislature June 6, Monica Ell-Kanayuk outlines her government’s strategy to put money into the hands of local communities and to create rules for visiting tourists and tourism operators.

“The challenge for Nunavut given the growth in marine tourism, and the potential for it to continue growing, is to ensure that this growth occurs in a manner that reflects the goals, interests and needs of Nunavummiut,” says the report, entitled Nunavut Marine Tourism Management Plan 2016-2019.

“This means it must provide local benefits and not cause unacceptable negative outcomes.”

Once you wade through the report’s bureaucratic jargon-heavy “key management goals,” the GN does appear committed to improving the marine management system with defined “actions” and target dates for delivery.

For example, economic development’s tourism division plans to develop codes of conduct for marine tourism operators and visitors and a also a “community code” with “guidelines or helpful hints” on how to host cruise ships in your community — all by November 2016.

The GN’s tourism division will also create information packages so communities can learn about things like “visitor behaviour management,” and “the role of the Hamlet in controlling visitors,” as well as community distinctiveness, in order to better prepare for, and attract, cruise ship traffic.

That will all be included in a Tourism Handbook for Nunavut, expected to be ready by September 2017, and distributed at marine tourism awareness sessions that the government plans to hold by March 2018, at a community’s request.

The government also plans to review and amend the Travel and Tourism Act to include new marine tourism regulations for implementation by March 2018.

They also commit to helping communities develop a “tourism plan” — four by March 2017 and another three by March 2018.

Such a plan would lay out how the community wants to manage marine tourism: through a committee, a local co-ordinator or through a visitor’s centre.

According to the report’s figures, the number of passenger vessel voyages through Nunavut waters has nearly quadrupled to 40 in 2015, from 11 in 2005. The estimated number of passengers on those vessels has more than tripled in that time, to 3,680 from 1,045.

Pleasure craft voyages have also increased from nine in 2005 to 30 in 2014.

Tourism staff and stakeholders suspect that upward trend will increase as the Northwest Passage becomes more navigable and as a result of finding the HMS Erebus in Queen Maud Gulf near Gjoa Haven — one of two ships lost during the 1845 Sir John Franklin Expedition through the Northwest Passage.

That increased cruise traffic could mean more jobs and economic opportunities for local people but also has the potential for “negative outcomes, including negative interactions between tourists and local people or between tourists and wildlife,” the report warns.

For marine tourism to be successful, the report says, it must contribute to local jobs and businesses, “without negative social and cultural outcomes and it must not exhaust local and territorial management resources needed to organize and control it.”

Part of that will be avoided by a lot of “communication.”

The report notes better communication is necessary, between government tourism staffers and communities and between communities and tourism operators.

For example, GN tourism staff within the EDT department will compile and distribute information to communities on “successful marine tourism examples and models,” as well as updated marine tourism data beginning this summer.

With the help of Nunavut Tourism, GN staff will also develop a communication plan and materials for the commercial and non-commercial marine tourism sectors by March 2017.

Aside from all the paper generated from those information materials and communications strategies, the marine management report also recommends that GN tourism officers and staff provide input on “strategic marine tourism transportation infrastructure by March 2018.”

The report gives no detail as to what kind of infrastructure they have in mind.

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