Sanikiluaq tourism business helps local economy
Bill and Dora Fraser say their slowly-growing outfitting business in Sanikiluaq won’t make them rich overnight, but that it’s bringing econonomic benefits to their community.
SANIKILUAQ — Dreams of new wealth didn’t spark Bill and Dora Fraser’s entrepreneurial aspirations.
Instead, the Sanikiluaq couple, decided to launch their own tourism outfit as a way to get local residents back to work.
“I write the welfare cheques and I know the only way to get people off welfare is to offer meaningful employment,” said Bill Fraser, co-owner of Sanikiluaq’s first tourism operation, Qikiqtait Tour and Outfitting Company Ltd. Dora works as a career counsellor for local students.
Neither had any experience in outfitting, but were willing to learn if it would help the local economy.
“Our main goal was to try to introduce a new source of income and employment. There was no organized tourism in the community,” Fraser said.
Two years after it was launched, Qikiqtait still isn’t a full-time operation, but the business is growing.
The business has doubled the number of visitors and the economic spinoff they generate in the community each year.
In 1998 nine tourists travelled to the Belcher Islands to discover what Qikiqtait tours have to offer. Qikiqtait hopes to double that number again this year.
The expanding tourism trade provides more customers for Sanikiluaq’s hotel, and work for local guides, cooks and entertainers.
Fraser said the Belcher Islands represents a great tourism opportunity.
The remote islands still display examples of traditional Inuit lifestyle, and the airfare from Montreal makes Sanikiluaq probably the cheapest entry point into the territory, Fraser said.
But an excursion to Sanikiluaq still doesn’t come cheap.
A five-day trip costs $3,959 plus GST. Two-day trips cost $1,999.
Qikiqtait also creates specialty packages, rents out equipment, and this year expanded its service to include kayaking trips through the islands.
For Qikiqtait, tapping into a base of tourists who want to see Nunavut and can afford the high cost is a challenge.
“Our transportation costs make it that not every person that wants to come can afford it,” Fraser admits. The community’s ban on alcohol is another obstacle to wooing visitors, Fraser said.
To find that market, Qikiqtait takes advantage of the Internet and last year attended an adventure travel show in Chicago.
Fraser has also had discussions with Sanikiluaq’s Hunters and Trappers Organization about the possibility of opening up one of Sanikiluaq’s 25 polar bear tags to sports hunters.
Qikiqtait has been contacted by a Texan willing to pay thousands for the right to hunt a polar bear.
But for now, Qikiqtait wants to maintain a low overhead and slow-paced growth.
“We’ve proven we have the available work force. We’ve got the local expertise. The biggest challenge is to try to grow to a rate where we’re a full-time effort without creating negative impacts to the community.”
Fraser’s business plan for Qikiqtait envisions 72 visitors travelling to Sanikiluaq each year by 2003. At that point the business could support a full-time operation and one full-time employee.