GN explores tourism in “have-not” communities

For places bypassed by decentralization, the GN is looking at tourism development


Spring campers, hungry polar bears and migratory birds regularly stop at the ancient sod huts, tent rings, cairns and fox traps at Alijivik near Coral Harbour.

But residents of Coral Harbour some day hope to welcome cruise ship passengers and other tourists to Alijivik – a kind of compensation for being passed over when decentralised Nunavut governments jobs were handed out.

Alijivik, also called “The Lost City of the North,” was the home of the now-vanished Sallirmiut, believed to be the last of the original Tuniit tribes, known for their remarkable strength, short stature, strange hairdos and their ancient language.

The Alijivik site is one of the potential attractions that Nunavut’s department of sustainable development wants to develop as a way of drawing visitors to Coral Harbour.

This week, representatives from Coral Harbour, the Department of Sustainable Development (DSD) and Nunavut’s department of cultural, elders and youth will visit the site to better evaluate Alijvik’s potential and develop a “community attraction plan.”

“Hopefully, with the endorsement of the community, it could become a park,” said John Ningeongan, the former mayor of Coral Harbour, who serves as a liaison on DSD’s development project in the community.

Ningeongan said Alijivik could draw visitors from the future national park at Wager Bay who would be keen to visit another nearby site of interest in the region.

An interpretation centre as well as crafts display and sales at Alijivik could give Coral Harbour an important economic boost.

“Hopefully, it will create some employment for the community. Since the government decentralization was only for some communities, people were wanting some means to help people in Coral Harbour,” Ningeongan said.

Ningeongan said people in Coral Harbour feel left out of the benefits of government decentralization.

In Hall Beach, another community that will not benefit from decentralization, DSD is also looking into an attraction development plan for which it recently sent out a request for proposals.

Chris Grosset of DSD’s parks and conservation areas section, said a preliminary study has already been completed in Hall Beach. This involved several site visits by consultants as well as meetings with community residents.

In Hall Beach attractions for possible development include the Dew Line site, which was established in 1957 as part of the early warning radar defense system across the North.

As well, Thule sites from 1,000 years ago, including remains of summer and winter houses with flagstone floors, stone sleeping platforms with walls, rafters and doors made of bowhead whalebones, are also located in the vicinity of Hall Beach.

The community attraction development plan for Hall Beach should be finished early in 2004.

But, at the same time that the GN is developing potential tourist attractions in non-decentralized communities, there are questions about whether politics should guide tourism development.

The impact of SARS, rising insurance costs, unpredictable exchange rates and the threat of terrorism means that even the development of attractions won’t guarantee businesses, or that any tourists will even come to Nunavut.

“The tourism industry has never been in a more vulnerable condition than it is today,” said Maureen Bungaard of Nunavut Tourism.

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