Mr. Speaker, the tourism industry offers enormous potential to create economic growth and diversification in our regions and communities.
In fact, while other sectors around the world are experiencing challenges, the Northwest Territories tourism sector continues to grow.
Between 2010-2011 and 2015-2016, the number of visitors to our territory has increased from 65,000 to 93,000. Visitor spending in this timeframe has also increased from $94.1 million to $167.1 million.
These numbers represent new money for our tourism operators, hotels, restaurants, shops, festivals and events. They mean that our tourism businesses can grow and expand their offerings to attract and meet even greater demand. Ultimately, they mean that the tourism industry is thriving in the Northwest Territories, giving us a foundation for further growth.
Later today, I will table Tourism 2020: Opening Our Spectacular Home to the World. This five-year Strategy is our government’s plan for creating a $207 million a year industry by 2021.
Tourism 2020 is a follow up to Tourism 2010 and 2015. It was developed collaboratively with Northwest Territories Tourism, the Aboriginal Tourism Champions Advisory Council, Parks Canada, Aboriginal communities, municipal governments, GNWT departments, and our many stakeholders in the tourism and hospitality industry.
Mr. Speaker, investment in tourism translates to investment in communities. For the first time, we have formally identified community tourism development as an independent pillar in our plan.
In addition to training and mentorship opportunities, we have identified continued funding for the Community Tourism Infrastructure Program and will be developing a Territory-Wide Events and Festivals Strategy.
We will be introducing a support program for communities looking to establish Tourism Coordinators in their communities who will develop marketable product packages for sale directly to consumers and travel trade partners.
To invigorate the Aboriginal cultural tourism sector, our plan outlines new and engaging approaches including a: Take a Tourist on the Land Program, Elder-in-Residence Program, Aboriginal Community Tourism Guidebooks, and the Aboriginal Youth Tourism Career Path Program.
This week, the Northwest Territories Tourism Annual General Meeting and conference is taking place in Yellowknife. We are celebrating the 20th anniversary of the partnership that was created between the GNWT and NWT Tourism to market our tourism industry.
The theme of the conference is especially fitting: Looking Back, Leaping Forward.
As we look back over this past fiscal year, we have much to celebrate. Not only did our tourism industry reach an all-time high for visitor numbers and spending, we also welcomed more people to NWT campgrounds.
Our Visitors Centre at the 60th Parallel welcomed over 20,000 visitors.
We saw the number of prospective visitors accessing the NWTT website increase by over 12 percent. One story, generated as part of the NWTT’s Spectacular Stories brand, went viral, generating 46, 000 shares.
We welcomed cruise ships in two of our Arctic coast communities, setting a new bar for well-orchestrated community Aboriginal tourism.
Our new Conference Bureau passed the $1.8 million mark in conference commitments. We hosted seven conferences, all secured by our Bureau since it opened in January 2015.
Mr. Speaker, the investments that we are making in tourism are working.
I would like to thank the men and women who make up our industry – operators and service providers who take pride in delivering excellence and providing true Northern hospitality when welcoming the world.
They are the foundation of our industry and we cannot grow it without them.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.