Over 34,000 more people visited Nunavut in 2018 than in 2015

Government of Nunavut releases annual tourism report for 2018-2019

Passengers on a One Ocean expedition cruise in zodiacs near Digges Island, on the north-western tip of the Ungava Peninsula. (Photo by Emma Tranter)

By Emma Tranter

From April to Sept. 2018, over 51,000 people visited Nunavut from outside the territory.

That’s according to Nunavut’s annual tourism report for 2018-2019 from the Department of Economic Development and Transportation, tabled in the legislative assembly earlier this month.

That same group of people spent a total of $271,383,000 on their travel during that time period, including transportation costs. The report does not break down specifically how much money was spent on non-transportation costs.

By comparison, there were an estimated 16,750 non-resident visitors to the territory from May to Oct. 2015, according to that year’s Nunavut visitor exit survey.

The Qikiqtaaluk and Kivalliq regions received the most visitors in Nunavut from July to Sept. 2018. The Qikiqtaaluk region had 95,600 visits, with just over half (53.2 per cent) of those visits to Iqaluit with a total of $75.1 million spent. Pond Inlet and Pangnirtung were the second and third most visited communities in the region.

In the Kivalliq, Rankin Inlet had 33,600 visits and $68 million in spending, followed by Baker Lake and Arviat.

Cambridge Bay was the dominant community visited in the Kitikmeot.

Also in 2018, 3,404 cruise tourists visited Nunavut over a two and a half month period. Cruise operators spent $388,351 to access community services, according to the report.

But weather and ice conditions affected half of the cruise visits planned for the territory that year.

The department received data from eight cruise operators on 23 voyages that stopped in Nunavut from July to Sept. 2018. Those cruise ships carried a total of 3,404 passengers.

Just over half, or 59 per cent, of the passengers in the sample who disembarked in Nunavut visited Pond Inlet. Iqaluit was the second-most visited community for cruise ships with 8.3 per cent, followed by Qikiqtarjuaq with 6.1 per cent and Grise Fiord with 5.9 per cent.

Not only did cruise ship visitors to Pond Inlet spend a total of $246,565, but those visitors also accounted for 100 of the 189.5 hours spent by cruise ship visitors in Nunavut, according to the report.

Cambridge Bay, Gjoa Haven, Kimmirut and Kugluktuk did not receive any cruise ship visits in 2018. According to the report, both Cambridge Bay and Gjoa Haven were expecting seven visits, which were all cancelled due to weather.

Passengers on a One Ocean expedition arrive in Kimmirut by zodiac in Aug. 2019. (Photo by Emma Tranter)

The report notes that Cambridge Bay and Gjoa Haven were negatively impacted by these cancelled visits, which represents a collective loss of about $25,300.

Most of the information included in the report comes from the department’s visitor exit survey from 2018, which surveyed cruise ship operators and other visitors to the territory last year.

In 2018, the GN responded to community concerns from Pond Inlet and Clyde River about cruise ships going into traditional harvesting areas. According to the report, the GN communicated with the Association of Arctic Expedition Cruise Operators and all cruise ship operators complied by avoiding these areas.

It also notes that although tourism is driven by private sector development, it requires government support to flourish. In Nunavut’s case, this means training and hiring Nunavummiut to work in tourism.

“Prominent among these challenges is the absence of a suitable labour pool that is interested and trained in different elements of the tourism sector. Without a pool of trained, certified employees, opportunities in the tourism industry remain unrealized potential. Training has long been a recognized need for the tourism sector in Nunavut,” the report states.

Nalunaiqsijiit, the Government of Nunavut’s Inuit Cruise Training Initiative, trains 12 Inuit per year to work on board cruise ships as expedition team members, the report states.

According to the report, all of the GN’s current tourism surveyors are Inuit.

“Historically, tourism data collection in the territory has been weak, leading to uncertainty regarding the true size of the industry and its contributions to Nunavut’s economy,” the report states.

The department also funded a total of 115 projects related to tourism in 2018, totalling $1,272,822.

A few of the highlighted projects include:

  • Nunatta Sunakkutaangit Museum, Voices from Nunavut exhibition: $50,100
  • Jerry Cans tour: $48,383
  • Hamlet of Igloolik, Creation of Igloolik Arts: $81,785
  • Artcirq, Unikkaaqtuat production: $99,872
  • Nunavut Development Corporation and the Winnipeg Art Gallery’s new store: $225,000 over three years
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(6) Comments:

  1. Posted by Fred on

    It would be nice to know how many of those visitors paid for their own trip vs. how many were there on business paid for by their employer. I know for myself while on duty travel I don’t consider myself a tourist (even if I do a couple of “touristy” things while there), but when I pay for my own holiday, I am a tourist. And obviously this is in relation to the plane travellers, not the cruise passengers.

    It would be interesting to see how many of our “tourists” are paid to come to Nunavut, or how many pay to come here.

  2. Posted by Charlie on

    I used to run tours for wildlife and landscape photographers with a specialty in the arctic (in the summer!). I’ve done quite a lot in Alaska and have traveled to Torngat Mountains National Park in Labrador as well as Kuujjuaq.

    I’ve found that for many people, it’s incredibly easy to fall in love with the wildlife and landscapes of the arctic and sub-arctic regions – and especially with Inuit culture and artwork.

    The main obstacle to building a thriving tourism business is the cost of travel. It simply pushes places like Bylot Bird Sanctuary near Pond Inlet out of reach. And for the more adventurous, Quittinirpaaq National Park would be a fantastic attraction, but every attempt I’ve made to pull a trip together, travel expenses were astronomical – literally in the $100,000 range to charter a flight.

    I don’t know what the answer is, but what I do know is that the beauty of the arctic is captivating. The history and the culture are too.

    If the cost of travel can be solved, tourism would bring a lot of jobs and income to Nunavut. I’d *love* to be a part of that, but when a flight to Kuujjuaq is $1,410 from Montreal – and another $400 to get to Montreal from Boston, the cost is just too much for many travelers.

  3. Posted by Ungava further Still on

    Ivujivik is at northern Hudson Bay & right on Hudson Straight. Ungava is far away. Yes, few tourists can afford the air travel. Air fare prevents tourism. A charter company could promote more tourism but air carriers are owned by tribal land corporations, who are airline protectors.

  4. Posted by Timing is everything on

    Awesome… it’s 2020 in a month and we’re getting stats from over 5 years ago. It’s a microcosm of how things are done… or not done in Nunavut. Maybe that’s why no current, blatant, blaring issues are addressed because we are perpetually in state of “catching up.” Most likely resulting from absenteeism, vacancies, political squabbling, and a plethora of social crises. I just saw someone wearing stonewashed jeans…

  5. Posted by Reality on

    There is no way there were 51,000 “visitors” in Nunavut in 2018. They have to be counting contract workers, and they have to be counting each entry as being a different “visitor”, when many of those counted likely came several times, inflating the number. If someone works in Nunavut, they’re not really a visitor, even if they are non-resident. Nunavut needs the support of outside workers, but they should be viewed as staff, not as “visitors”. Much of the expensive travel done by those counted as “visitors” is paid for by the GN, and yet the GN is counting them as contributing to the economy, which is quite a spin. They are an expense, and while their contribution is an asset, they’re not tourists. If cruise ships carried 3,400 visitors,, which would probably be the largest supplier of tourists (especially to the communities), then it’s not plausible that somehow another 47,600 made it to Nunavut by other means. These stats have to be bogus, and the reason for the huge increase is that so many jobs are vacant that the GN is desperately hiring casual workers for shorter and shorter contracts. From reading the article, they are probably even counting people on duty and medical travel as “visitors” to various communities, since the number of those visits exceeds the number of visitors.

    • Posted by Someone on

      “Visits” is what Statistics Canada uses for this type of information in all other provinces and territories. You are correct in that multiple visits are being counted across business travellers, contractors etc. They state this in the report. Probably should seperate out “leisure” tourism next time, though.

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