Mr. Speaker, this is National Tourism Week and across the NWT we are celebrating with events ranging from the “Be A Tourist In Your Own Town” promotion here in Yellowknife to community picnics, film screenings, open houses, and complimentary tours of local attractions.
There is much to celebrate and I would like to take a moment to highlight some of the recent successes and milestones this vibrant sector of our economy has achieved.
Last October, I shared with Members that over 90,000 visitors travelled to the Northwest Territories in the 2013-14 fiscal year. That is the highest number of visitors that we have welcomed to our territory in a decade. Visitor spending also rose dramatically – increasing by 24 percent in 2013-14 – to over $132 million dollars.
Growth and success seems destined to continue in 2015. Web traffic to the NWT Parks online reservation system doubled over last year when it opened on April 15th. Over $100,000 worth of reservations were generated within the first five hours it was open.
Less than a year after its establishment, the NWT Conference Bureau has secured four conferences worth an estimated $1 million dollars in future business for the NWT’s tourism sector. An additional six conference bids could double this estimate by year end.
Mr. Speaker, these numbers tell us that our tourism industry is building momentum. It is vital that our government continue to support and grow this sector through the development of new products, community infrastructure and training and mentorship opportunities.
Tourism 2020, an extension of our two previous five-year tourism development plans is expected to launch in the 2016-17 fiscal year and will guide the next chapter of our government’s work and investments to grow and advance tourism in our territory. It will focus on creating exceptional visitor experiences in the Northwest Territories, enhancing the skills of the tourism service sector, and supporting communities to develop attractions, products and services for visitors.
Mr. Speaker, strengthening and growing our tourism industry is a collaborative effort.
Investment and funding leveraged from Canada’s Northern Economic Development Agency serves to build community tourism capacity and create new tourism products. Destination marketing is expertly accomplished by Northwest Territories Tourism. Advice and guidance flows to our decision-making processes from the Tourism Marketing Advisory Committee and the Aboriginal Tourism Champions Advisory Council.
Above all else, our tourism sector succeeds on the basis of the hard-working individuals who operate and deliver our territory’s tourism products and services – and provide the face and friendly smiles that welcome the world to our North.
Men and women, Mr. Speaker, like Toni and Henry Heron whose effective management, special brand of hospitality and willingness to share in their Aboriginal culture has contributed to the recognition of Queen Elizabeth Territorial Park near Fort Smith as one of the Top 25 Campsites in Canada by Explore Magazine.
Collectively, we are working to ensure that the NWT tourism sector will grow, continue to thrive and provide economic benefits across the NWT.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.