Tourism Minister Soraya Martinez Ferrada takes a moment for a photo last week at Arqsarniit hotel at Travel Nunavut AGM. (Photo by Livete Ataguyuk)

Nunavut tourism could be $1B business, industry officials say

Officials call growing sector to $1 billion by 2030 ‘ambitious,’ look to federal government for support

By Livete Ataguyuk

An “ambitious” goal to turn Nunavut travel and tourism into a billion-dollar industry by 2030 was the main focus of Travel Nunavut’s annual general meeting this week in Iqaluit.

The sector had an economic impact of $400 million in 2019 — pre-pandemic — and employed 3,000 people, according to the marketing organizations’ strategic plan for the next seven years.

“My impression is that is there’s huge opportunities and they have a very ambitious plan of growing the industry here,” said federal Tourism Minister Soraya Martines Ferrada said in an interview Wednesday.

Travel Nunavut is a membership-based association that represents hotels, outfitters, airlines and artists. Of its 147 members, 77 are Inuit-owned businesses.

Ferrada was in Iqaluit to hold an open forum with tourism operators as part of Travel Nunavut’s three-day meeting. Much of the conversation revolved around challenges to meeting this goal, including transportation capacity.

“How do you bring people to the North and [make] that affordable to come up here?” she asked.

Airstrips and ports

Ferrada, who became Canada’s tourism minister over the summer, pledged to take the ideas about growing Nunavut’s tourism industry — especially improvements to transportation infrastructure — back to Ottawa where she can enlist other federal cabinet ministers to support tourism growth.

Specifically, that would be airstrip improvements and aid to northern airlines, said David Akeeagok, Nunavut’s minister of economic development and transportation, during the forum.

“We use government dollars to build airports and airstrips, and to maintain [them in] all 25 communities is a challenge when you have a $16-million budget and, on top of that, you have to build new ones,” he said.

He acknowledged the federal government has partnered with the GN on several airport terminal improvement projects over the past eight years, but no money has flowed to airstrip improvements.

Bigger planes like Boeing 737s require a paved runway for landings and takeoffs.

There are two paved airstrips in Nunavut — one in Iqaluit and one in Rankin Inlet. According to Akeeagok, his department has no program specifically earmarked for airstrip paving.

“Money talks,” Akeeagok said, “and we don’t have money.”

Nunavut Travel CEO Kevin Kelly said his association is also working with the federal government to get support for other improvements, such as deepsea ports and small craft harbours.

Travel industry ‘poised to explode’: Travel Nunavut CEO

On top of infrastructure, Kelly said he wants to see more support for Inuit-owned travel businesses.

“That is what we want, we want the industry to be here and we want the story to be told by Inuit and that is where the biggest growth can happen,” he said.

The Inuit tourism industry is “poised to explode” said Kelly, noting there’s a lot of demand, partly from a travelling public that wants to experience what Inuit life is like.

“Whether that is in the art side, whether that is on the hunting side, meaning if somebody that comes here and goes out with, say, Peter and goes out seal hunting,” said Kelly.

“The industry is ripe and waiting for Inuit to really flourish and Travel Nunavut is there to help.”

Ferrada said she recognized the opportunity to involve Inuit in tourism but “in their own terms and their own rhythm.”

Inuit involvement in tourism would be both an “economic reconciliation driver” but also an “identity piece.”

“It’s an opportunity in a way that reconnects even youth to the Inuit traditions and how do we bring that youth in that pathway of reconciliation within tourism,” she said.

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(33) Comments:

  1. Posted by C=O-2 on

    I don’t get the connection to ‘reconciliation’ here. Can someone explain?

    • Posted by Polique on

      It’s a speech code meant to trigger the flow of cash from Ottawa.

  2. Posted by Traveler on

    China has a snow festival , Montreal has an ice hotel, yellowknife has an ice castle, most of the provinces have ski lodges and ski lifts, white water rafting ect….
    How come Nunavut has litterly none of those. I would take my kids to a ski lodge on the weekends, go sliding and have some hot chocolate

    • Posted by Not feisable on

      Because Nunavut is decentralized over 26 communities that are not interconnected outside of flights. You can toss your snow castle up in Iqaluit I suppose but that does nothing for the other 25 communities that desperately need economic activity. Now ontop of that consider that a person who would travel to such a thing might pay, what 6-10k round trip to go to just a single community.

      Not only that most of these communities if not all don’t have the equipment to facilitate something like the ice castle in Yellowknife, we have limited resources and that equipment that is already nearing the end of its life in most towns is always in use for snow removal.

      Now, there is some events though. Frolics for instance just takes a skidsteer, but I don’t see people traveling up for our week of frolics each year. If you said you would travel for an ice castle and take the kids why are you not doing that for the existing activities like frolics….. Or are you just someone in town already and that’s not tourism.

    • Posted by Hunter on

      Cambridge Bay has Umingmak Frolics
      Rankin Inlet has Pakallak Tyme
      Iqaluit has Toonik Tyme

      Each region in Nunavut has a spring festival.

  3. Posted by Northener on

    Lets start with an alternative way south like the ferry to labrador in the summers

  4. Posted by When Oh When on

    The travel sector will be billion dollar industry when there are 50,000 rooms for rent by travelers to Nunavut, when you can rent these nice rooms for $100 a night, there are several flights daily from at least 3 southern hubs to each community in Nunavut, and round trip fares between those hubs and each community in Nunavut is under $500.
    Until then, not so much.

    • Posted by Work Travel Counts as Tourism….. on

      I understand that duty travel is included in these figures, and given the cost of work-related travel in Nunavut, it seems reasonable to estimate expenses around $400 million. However, aside from airfare and hotel accommodations, you’ll find that there are limited options for additional expenditures in most communities after 5 pm.

      • Posted by Nunavut tourists are on

        Yes you are on the real answer, $400M that include, electricien, mechanic, carpenter, plumber, furnace guys , nurse , doctor , dentist etc. etc.. all those worker are the one figure as tourists here if not , who gone paid a fortune on plane ticket and on a half star hotel to see nothing.

        • Posted by Ronn Sing on

          Let us stop dreaming. One Billion ? No body will travel to Nunavut keeping in mind the cost. If I am in Ottawa, I would like to travel to Mexico or Dominican Republic or Cuba in all inclusive resort for a fraction of cost then to travel North. Northern travel is for necessity not for leisure. If you want to compete with travel industry around the world. There are many beautiful place which attract tourists and definitely it is not Nunavut.

  5. Posted by Medical Travel on

    I am very skeptical that there is $400m in Nunavut Tourism. Do these numbers consider Canadian North flights, almost always filled by duty travel and medical travel, as tourism dollars? Does this count the $100m subsidy to airlines during the pandemic?

  6. Posted by art thompson on

    yup the could market this as a trip to a third world, poverty stricken, violent place. dont have to book a trip to anywhere else. this is close to home,

  7. Posted by Ambitious on

    Nunabut travel is a very small niche of travelers. Unbelieveanly beautiful but a very difficult place for visitors. Literally nothing to do in most communities, the hotels are all one-star at best, it is nearly impossible to access most of the territory, the few select outfitters only cater to rich American sport hunters. Why would someone want to visit nunavut when NWT, Alaska, Greenland or Scandanavia have infrastructure that is light years ahead of Nunavut and they are much more welcoming places. So yeah, ambitious.

  8. Posted by ludi enooki on

    i ludi will dress up in seal skin. go meet cruise ship with my kayak, maybe even get free meal or two.

  9. Posted by Delber on

    Lets ask the feds for money. IF this is such a good idea. Why aren’t Inuit partnering with private equity firms? To establish tourism. Instead of asking the feds for money.
    When will the people of Nunavut begin to take care of themselves. For once. Take the initiative and do it own your dime.

    • Posted by Lol on

      Equity firms know better than to throw money at rhetorical magic beans.

  10. Posted by Inquiring Mind on

    $1,000,000,000 per year.
    Is that 1,000,000 tourists each spending $1,000?
    Is that 1,000 tourints each spending $1,000,000?
    Is that 31,500 tourists each spending $31,500?
    Get real.

  11. Posted by Henry on

    Garbage everywhere ends tourism. I had a family member fly through Rankin Inlet on a side trip to Iqaluit and visit friends. All positive experiences were wiped away by the extreme amounts of garbage everywhere, in town and on the land. The lack of community and household self-control over waste in many commercial means they will never experience beneficial tourism.

  12. Posted by 867 on

    Nunavut is on the bucket lists of so many Canadians, as it should be. Unfortunately, once you start researching nunavut you will realize that there is no tourism infrastructure and your trip to nunavut starts to seem less and less attractive until the point you realize your money might be better spent traveling somewhere else.

  13. Posted by When I fly to Europe does that count as tourism? on

    How can one expect to raise tourism in this territory when just flying up from Ottawa can cost you well over $1,000 in plane tickets? I can fly to Australia with that money. I can go tour several countries in Europe and have a return ticket for $1,000. What does Nunavut offer me for a $1,000 plane ticket? A one-way trip to Iqaluit?

  14. Posted by Northern Guy on

    Non-existent customer service, extremely rudimentary and expensive tourist-based infrastructure in almost all the communities and a monopoly in the airline sector that guarantees poor service, frequent cancelations and sky high ticket prices …. yeah that all spells a billion dollar industry to me … NOT!

  15. Posted by S on

    Soraya Martinez Ferrada – Minister of Tourism, Government of Canada said she recognized the opportunity to involve Inuit in tourism but “in their own terms and their own rhythm … [as an] economic reconciliation driver [and as an] identity piece. … in a way that reconnects even youth to the Inuit traditions and how do we bring that youth in that pathway of reconciliation within tourism”

    Much of my day, life even, is consumed to generate tax dollars to pay for rhetoric and resulting behavior

  16. Posted by Kaluuk on

    I’m 10 and I already started making Inukshuks with Rocks and Gorilla glue, I’ll be selling them to Tourist for $25 each. (Rocks were free from town and glue from Store)
    I’m hoping to make a Trillion Dollars at end of the summer from the Cruise Ships. Can’t wait! and there was no child-labor, I’m doing work for free. 99% profit.

  17. Posted by Mass Formation on

    This Nunavut tourisms $1 billion market dream is as disillusion as the New York, Times Square Jumbotron ad was to promote a mass flood of tourist across Nunavut.

    How will Nunavut tourism make it a reality when Feds, and governments around the world are pumping Net Zero with hard steps by 2030, 2035 and completed by 2050?

    This means no more petroleum fueled planes and jets. This fuel is already in the works, called Sustainable Aviation Fuels, and beginning to be used by 2025. At higher prices, which will skyrocket an air ticket price.

    Where will all these tourists come from when 15 minute cities (towns, villages) are flowing into place now in Canada and around the world? Sold to the public as utopia dream cities? Where you’ll do everything with in 15 minutes from where one lives.

    But how much will it cost to pay, and with fingers crossed, for an approved government issued permit to travel outside of the 15 minute restricted area?

    If a tourist makes it to Nunavut, will the Nunavut government give permission approval for a guide or two to travel with the approved tourist out on the land? How much will that cost the guide?

    Will a Nunavut government issued minder attach to the tourist and guide to make sure they all stay within in reservation approved zones? And stay within carbon credit usage and eat no meat? Net Zero, remember.

    Is the $1 billion a distraction? To not look or question what’s about to steam roll down Nunavut’s future?

    • Posted by S on

      Thank you, Mass Formation. Your post is entertaining, insightful, and relevant

  18. Posted by Hunter on

    There is no resources for a billion dollar tourism industry in Nunavut.

    Local grocery stores run out of food just servicing community members.

    Airlines would not be able to keep up flying tourist around and food into the communiteis.

    Hotels are already busting at their seems during construction season or when RIO hosts an AGM.

  19. Posted by Priorities on

    “How do you bring people to the North and [make] that affordable to come up here?” she asked.
    I like how the feds are interested in making Nunavut affordable for tourists, but not for residents.

  20. Posted by Clueless Nobody on

    Ah, this was a federal cabinet minister speaking. So, as the prime minister has said, “a clueless nobody when they get 100 feet from parliament hill”.

  21. Posted by Mit on

    Could learn from Churchill Manitoba. They got an economy based on eco tourism. Instead of shooting the bears, take people on safari tours to go see polar bears in the wild.

    • Posted by Hunter on

      Great lets compete with Churchill.

      Way cheaper to go Churchill by train and see polar bears than iti s to fly anywhere in Nunavut.

      As a tourist myself I would rather go Churchill and 100% chance of spotting a bear than spending an additional $10,000 on a trip and not see one.

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