Nunavut Tourism, Parks Canada want closer ties

The number of visitors coming to Nunavut’s parks is declining rapidly.



IQALUIT — Nunavut Tourism’s executive director says the slow pace of Parks Canada’s restructuring of their Nunavut branch is hurting Nunavut’s nascent tourism industry.

“We believe there can be a stronger relationship with Parks Canada,” Madeleine Redfern said in a telephone interview from Ottawa on Monday afternoon.

Redfern was in Ontario last week attending the Minister of Canadian Heritage’s first round table on aboriginal tourism, which was held in Brantford on May 11.

One of the items on the round table agenda was a discussion paper titled “Protected Areas Tourism in Partnership with Aboriginal Peoples.”

The paper — published by the Federal-Provincial Parks Council last February — recommends enhancing Aboriginal involvement in park-related tourism by “[seeking] to better link Aboriginal communities and park agencies with available capacity building programs such as those of DIAND” and “[having] park agencies develop improved linkages with the tourism sector to ensure that park agencies and Aboriginal communities do not work in isolation of potential tourism partners and to identify tourism opportunities in keeping with park objectives.”

Redfern said Parks Canada in Nunavut is failing to meet these objectives, and Elizabeth Seale, Parks Canada’s field superintendant for Nunavut, agrees.

“Madeleine’s right, we haven’t been able do much,” Seale said. “We have a new park scheduled to open in the Kivalliq this spring, our management obligations to the other parks to uphold, and dealing with the negotiations for the Inuit impact benefit agreements to take care of.”

Seale said her unit simply has too many balls in the air. She also said the unit suffered from not having a permanent superintendant between the years 1994 to 1999 — something that’s reflected in the number of visitors to the national parks over the years.

“Since the creation of Nunavut, the numbers of tourists visiting Auyuittuq National Park have fallen dramatically,” Redfern said. “In 1999, there were 1,191 visitors, and last year that number fell to 467 visitors.”

This trend was repeated in Quttinirpaaq National Park, located on Ellesmere Island. In the fiscal year 1998 to 1999, the park was visited by 508 people, whereas in the following fiscal year, the number of visitors fell to 192.

Redfern said the declining number of national park visitors has a direct effect on the economies of Nunavut’s six communities closest to the three national parks in Nunavut.

These communities, known as “gateway communities,” are: Arctic Bay, Broughton Island, Grise Fjord, Pangnirtung, Pond Inlet and Resolute Bay.

Redfern wants Parks Canada to sign a memorandum of understanding with Nunavut Tourism to create a marketing partnership that Redfern would like her association to spearhead.

However, Seale said such a partnership probably won’t happen in the near future.

“It’s taken us a year to get a communications person,” Seale said. “She’s starting in June, and until then we can’t do much in the way of marketing.”

Visitors to Nunavut contributed $60 million to Nunavut’s tourism industry last year, but Redfern said that figure was inflated artificially by the number of people who travel to Nunavut for work.

Of that $60 million spent by visitors to Nunavut, only 16 per cent was spent by bona fide tourists, while 79 per cent came from business travelers. The remaining five per cent of the $60 million came from people visiting family living in Nunavut.

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