Pond Inlet learns how to profit from cruise ship tourists
IQALUIT — The people of Pond Inlet no longer feel invaded when hordes of cruise ship tourists arrive in their community via Zodiac boats.
Armed with a little creativity and organization, residents have turned the annual arrival of cruise ship visitors into a welcome source of cash.
“The potential is enormous,” said Maureen Bundgaard, Nunavut Tourism’s director of marketing and research and a long-time resident of Pond Inlet.
Two years ago the advisory committee at the newly-built Nattinnak Visitors’ Centre decided to develop the centre into year-round cultural resource for Pond Inlet.
They also wanted to find ways in which local residents and tourists could interact, so, they devised a plan to offer cruise ship visitors cultural programs in and around Pond Inlet.
“We realized that if we wanted people to come to the community, we had to make changes,” Bundgaard said.
So far, these efforts have been successful.
The Nattinnak Centre now offers an on-shore program for cruise ship passengers at $15 to $25 per person. This fee includes tea and bannock, followed by a walking tour of the community, or a cultural performance at the centre.
The visitors divide into two groups to make participation in both activities more manageable. Their walking tour takes them around town and to the Qilaukat Thule site near Salmon River.
The cultural program features three performances, representing different styles and periods, that reflect the centre’s theme of “continuity and change.” Passengers hear drum-dancing, ay-ya-ya songs, throat-singing and modern songs from performers dressed in traditional clothing.
“Rainy day” activities are also offered. These include bannock-making, a short Inuktitut language lesson, and instruction in drumming with a traditional qilaut.
Bundgaard says everyone leaves the cultural programs feeling happy.
“It gives us money without a lot of infrastructure, and they feel as if they have taken part in something interesting and entertaining,” she said.
This year, Natinnak’s manager trainee, Lorna Ootova, says the centre’s thematic exhibit and cultural perfomances will focus on the creation of Nunavut.
Visitors to Pond Inlet will also be guided to the centre’s gift shop and the coop store to purchase carving, handicrafts and other souvenirs.
The visitors’ urge to buy is so strong that by the end of last year’s season the centre’s tiny boutique was completely cleaned out. With no working capital, the shop sold only on consignment, but, this year, the centre plans to invest a small amount of money in stocking merchandise.
Every year more than 1500 visitors from six to eight cruise ships visit Pond Inlet.
Bundgaard is reluctant to put a dollar figure on every visitor that comes through Pond Inlet, mainly because she feels that there is “no limit” to the amount they would spend if more merchandise was available.
But the money that stays in the community through the sales of arts and crafts to this well-off clientele is substantial.
And this locally-generated economic activity helps support carvers, artists, performers and will provide part-time jobs for a few students this year.
Some communities, such as Pangirntung and Cape Dorset, are already experienced in catering to cruise ship visitors, but people in other communities, such as Quartaq in Nunavik, are wondering what they should do when a cruise ship docks this summer.
“I’d love to see all communities adopt a common strategy,” Bundgaard said. “It will be better for all the people in the community and better for the tourists.”