Tourism, arts vital to Nunavut economy, trade show speakers say

Discussion part of Nunavut Trade Show, held in Iqaluit this week

The Nunavut Trade Show in Iqaluit is being held in person for the first time since the pandemic started. (Photo by David Lochead)

By David Lochead

The importance of tourism and the arts in Nunavut — and how to build them up — was the discussion to kick off the Nunavut Trade Show on Wednesday.

“There is so much opportunity out there for tourism providers,” said Travel Nunavut CEO Kevin Kelly.

The two-day Nunavut Trade Show and Conference opened at the Arctic Winter Games arena and Aqsarniit Hotel. This is the first time since the start of the pandemic in spring 2020 that it has been held in person. Trade booths on the floor include different Government of Nunavut departments, Inuit organizations such as Makigiaqta, and private-sector businesses like Canadian North.

In a room off from the trade show floor, speakers including Kelly, Thor Simonsen of the Nunavut record label Hitmakerz and Kathleen Nicholls from the Government of Nunavut discussed infrastructure needed to elevate tourism and the arts in the territory.

When it comes to an economic recovery from COVID-19, tourism matters, Kelly said.

The industry provides 1,500 full-time and part-time jobs across Nunavut, so ensuring it recovers from the effects of the pandemic and continues to grow is vital.

ITK Job Opportunties, Senior Policy Advisor, MMIWG

To emphasize the impact COVID-19 had on it, Kelly pointed to Government of Nunavut information that showed in 2020 there were approximately 359,000 passenger movements, or people flying either into or within Nunavut.

That was a drop of about 25 per cent from the 480,000 seen in pre-pandemic 2019.

That sharp decline would have affected everything from hotel operators to retailers, food sellers and charter operators.

For the industry to recover, Kelly said, travel has to be made easy.

He used the example of having credit card processing available for tourists willing to spend money on art.

“What we need to do as an industry and as a territory is to help our artists get that [credit card] technology,” Kelly said.

Government of Nunavut, Employment Opportunities

More infrastructure is also needed for Nunavut’s music scene, said Simonsen, the CEO at Hitmakerz.

Setting up bank accounts, for example, is a task that should be simple — except for Nunavut artists it isn’t, because some communities lack good internet access.

“We want to give these opportunities to people who don’t have them,” Simonsen said of creating jobs in the music business.

“We want to bridge that gap.”

Nicholls, an adviser to the GN on tourism and cultural industries, said there is also incredible value in the artwork created in Nunavut.

With approximately 7,800 artists in the territory, Nunavut has more artists per capita than anywhere in Canada, she said.

Nicholls said 10 per cent of the Canadian art that is sold internationally comes from Nunavut artists — which is extraordinary considering the territory’s population is only one-tenth of one per cent of Canada’s entire population.

She said art sold specifically by Nunavut Inuit artists contributes $15 million to Canada’s gross domestic product annually.

But to ensure artists thrive, they need proper support, Nicholls said.

“If we don’t take care of our artists, we don’t have anything to monetize,” she said.

As one example, she said artists need to be able to take their work to market and sell it for a satisfactory price.

Administrative support for tasks such as processing payments, applying for grants or setting up a website, is also critical in helping artists, Nicholls said.

The trade show continues Thursday when the trade show floor at the arena is open to the public from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.



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(11) Comments:

  1. Posted by Shawn on

    1st class housing instead of last class housing would bring money and jobs…. improve the roads too. Stop teaching every one about USA presidents while bashing owe own prime minister. There is much more too.

  2. Posted by Unmuted on

    The number of “passenger movements” needs to be properly parsed if a compelling case is to be made that 480k of those are related to tourism. Maybe Nunatsiaq could get its journalists to ask these kinds of questions in the future?

    Also, any word on mining in Nunavut? It seems this is the real economic driver in the territory, after the GN.

    Arts and tourism are tertiary sectors. Would be interesting to see a breakdown of the numbers.

  3. Posted by $399 return on

    Between the airfare and poor accommodation options at ridiculous rates and no variety of restaurants even in the capital it’s just not going to get better

    • Posted by Oliphant on

      Exactly, there is no serious ‘tourism’ sector driving our economy. The idea that it is ‘vital’ to our economy is delusional. Leave it to NN to come up with the most anodyne, inoffensive interpretation of reality it possibly can, regardless of how incongruous it is with the world around it.

  4. Posted by Derpy Doo on

    How does one “build a tourism industry” when communities get to choose if cruise ships stop there? Only a fool with money flies here for tourism.

  5. Posted by Umingmak on

    A hotel in Nunavut is going to cost a minimum of $250/night, with mediocre meals costing $30-35 for lunch and $50-60 for dinner. The only people who can afford to come to Nunavut for tourism are those who are extremely wealthy. A round-trip to a hub community from the south will cost a minimum of $1500, with smaller communities hitting as high as $3000 for a round-trip (a so-called seat sale on flights from Edmonton to Resolute is listed right now at over $2750). Add on the enormous cost of shipping cargo (for those looking to camp on the land), etc.

    Tourism is a massive opportunity for Nunavut, but it will never happen unless the above changes drastically. The greed of organizations like Arctic Co-Operatives and Canadian North are harming Nunavut.

    • Posted by true dat! on

      To an extent, I agree with your views. However the extremely wealthy are not going to worry about coming to Nunavut when they can get arctic experiences in Iceland or the Scandinavian countries with better amenities and accessibility. Canadian arctic are very much at the bottom of the barrel in terms of infrastructure and accessibility.

    • Posted by Zoom Out on

      I mostly agree with you, but the idea that it is ‘greed’ driving the high costs in the North misses the mark in my opinion.

      • Posted by Umingmak on

        Airfare and cargo rates have skyrocketed since the airline merger. Both individual airlines had significantly lower rates than the merged airline does. The merged airline also has reduced the number of flights and eliminated many flight routes. The hotels may be more understandable (outside of the outrageous meal costs), but Canadian North is pure greed.

  6. Posted by 867 on

    Tourism in alaska works, tourism in the yukon works, nwt it works, iceland and greenland? it also works. Tourism in Nunavut is nonexistant and righteously so.

    • Posted by Apples and Oranges on

      Most of those places have roads, and you can’t compare the level of development in Nunavut with Greenland – they are night and day.


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