Mr. Speaker, the Government of the Northwest Territories has made a commitment in its Mandate to build partnerships to support, among other things, culturally-based tourism.
The tourism sector offers the potential for direct and indirect economic growth in many of our communities and the possibility for diversification and growth of regional economies.
As we look to the future, we can be assured that our government’s strategic approach to tourism development is already working.
In 2010, we introduced the Tourism 2015 Plan with an ambitious goal of building the NWT tourism sector to a $30 million-dollar industry by 2015. Today, I can report that we achieved our goal and more, when visitor spending reached an all-time-high of $146.6 million for the 2014-2015 fiscal year.
This is particularly heartening as we prepare to introduce Tourism 2020, our next strategic plan for tourism development in the Northwest Territories.
Under Tourism 2020 we will continue to invest in our tourism sector in response to our Mandate commitments by building on key areas of program and financial investment including visitor attraction and experience, community tourism development, skills development, and tourism research.
Our Tourism 2020 plan also includes a new area of investment and growth: Aboriginal Culture Tourism; developed in partnership with the Aboriginal Tourism Champions Advisory Council, and now a foundational part of our plan to increase the value of our tourism industry to $207 million annually by 2021.
Partnerships have been central to our success in tourism over the last 5 years, and I am happy to announce that the Department has reached agreement with the Canadian Executive Service Organization to expand its role in our Tourism Business Mentorship Program.
The organization brings the pedigree of facilitating more than 47,000 successful mentorship initiatives in 122 countries around the world, including work in over 80 percent of all Aboriginal communities in Canada. We welcome this expertise and look forward to the new perspectives it will bring to our budding tourism sector and the talented, energetic operators across the Northwest Territories.
Mr. Speaker, there are few better ways to celebrate the ingenuity in our tourism industry than our annual Tourism Week.
This year’s celebration will be concluding this weekend with a number of events across our five regions designed to build awareness and interest in local tourism.
As we mark Tourism Week in this Assembly today, I would like to recognize the continued partnership of Northwest Territories Tourism and the dedication and hard work of our vibrant family of industry operators and service providers.
Few areas of our economy have been as bright as tourism over the last five years. We will continue to find ways to promote the Northwest Territories’ natural beauty and unique Northern spirit in a way that will allow our tourism sector to thrive and grow.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.