Grooming home-grown guides for Nunavut
Will Nunavut Tourism’s training project keep tourists’ cash in the territory?
IQALUIT — Employees of Nunavut Tourism want to show tourists a good time.
The problem is, although they know there are many good times to be had in the fledgling territory, they’re unsure if Nunavummiut can handle the action.
But rather than worrying, employees like Greg Logan are working to ensure that the good times don’t roll past Nunavummiut. This summer, Nunavut Tourism has been teaching interested Nunavummiut about the intricacies of good service.
“The advantage of having local guides is that they can add a whole lot to the hiking experience,” says Logan, Nunavut Tourism’s product-development coordinator for the Baffin region.
Logan is referring to a recent guiding course hosted by Nunavut Tourism in Pangnirtung.
A group of four young men — three from Pangnirtung and one from Qikiqtarjuaq — learned how to guide backpackers and hikers.
Nunavut Tourism hired Paul Landry, the owner and operator of Northwinds Arctic Adventures, and July Papatsie, a former Auyuittuq park warden, to lead the nine-day course.
During those nine days, the men learned a number of skills, like establishing a good hiking pace and dealing with difficult clients.
The course was free to the trainees. The men received a small per diem for participating.
Nunavut Tourism recruited Pangnirtung’s economic development officer, Sim Akpalialuk, to find suitable candidates for the course.
“I was the communications coordinator between the visitors’ centre and the students,” he says. “I suggested people who’ve shown interest in the park and tourism, or those who come from families with strong guiding backgrounds.”
Akpalialuk says he was keen to help because he wants the region’s tourism industry to thrive.
“Backpackers don’t tend to drop a whole lot of money unless you have people working with them,” he says.
Eric Leuthold, co-owner of Iqaluit-based Polynya Adventure and Coordination, says he pays experienced guides between $80 and $160 per day.
“It depends on what the guide wants to charge and what the group wants to do,” he says.
According to Nunavut Tourism, each year between 400 to 600 outdoor enthusiasts visit Pangnirtung, which is one of six “gateway” communities in Nunavut.
(Tourism industry specialists use the term “gateway” when describing communities adjacent to major tourist destinations. In Nunavut, the term applies specifically to the communities adjacent to one of Nunavut’s three national parks.)
Pangnirtung is the starting point of a 10-day hike along Auyuittuq Park Pass to Qikiqtarjuaq. Climbers and mountaineers from all corners of the world travel to Pangnirtung to scale the nearby mountains and cliffs.
Unfortunately, Logan says, most of those adventurous tourists don’t spend a lot of money in either Pangnirtung or Qikiqtarjuaq.
“They’re usually with a large tour company so they all bring guides with them from the South,” he says. “If they come with a group from the South, that benefits the airlines.
“Maybe they’ll spend a night or two in a hotel, pay for boat drop-off and pick-up, and often buy artwork or carvings, but that’s a relatively small amount of money going directly into the community.”
He says people in Pangnirtung and Qikiqtarjuaq would earn more money from the tourism industry if they offered quality guiding and tour services.
Nunavut Tourism is hosting several tourism training courses throughout Nunavut this summer.
Course topics include guiding, heritage interpretation and improving overall customer service.
Nunavut Tourism received a $50,000 grant from the Kakivak Association to pay for courses offered in the Baffin region.