Yellowknife tourism is a passion of mine, that is clear for those who know me, but if you don’t, it is. I like to live and breathe it. I want to support and push it forward in any capacity this community will allow. I want to contribute at an industry level and not just where it benefits me. I want to work on how we can develop a sustainable tourism industry, where everyone benefits. One that also contributes to making Yellowknife the best possible place to live, work and play.
I have long lists of tourism improvements Yellowknife could to look at. Before I throw those ideas into the universe I thought it would be wise to look at Yellowknife tourism as a whole. Look at where Yellowknife tourism is right now and what is being done and by whom.
Here is what I know of:
The Northern Frontier Visitor Centre closed down in July 2017. The Northern Frontier Visitor Association (NFVA) also stopped providing visitor services at the end of September 2017. The NFVA provided visitor services for 25 years. For the last few years, the NFVA received an annual combined contribution of $240,000+/- from the City of Yellowknife and GNWT ITI.
The City of Yellowknife is operating a small visitor centre at City Hall until September 30th, 2018.
As of March 16th, 2018 the City has requested a successful proponent develop a Yellowknife Visitor Center Strategy. This would direct what the City does after September 30th in terms of visitor services.
In 2016/2017, the NFVA also conducted a strategy on what the best option for a Visitor Centre in Yellowknife might look like.
NWT Tourism promotes the Northwest Territories. Yellowknife is the primary destination for tourism in the Territory. NWT Tourism must remain neutral in promoting all of the Northwest Territories.
The City of Yellowknife is lobbying the Government of the Northwest Territories – Municipal and Community Affairs Department to change the Towns and Village Act. The change would allow the City to implement an Accommodation Levy which would help fund City of Yellowknife tourism initiatives. This change in the act should be tabled in the Legislative Assembly in June 2018. If not, lets riot ;). There was some large amount of public consultation done for this.
The City of Yellowknife also contracted a local consultant to develop a Destination Marketing Organization (DMO) strategy. This strategy will direct how the City of Yellowknife implements its own tourism marketing. Up until now, they claim it has only been done by NWT Tourism. A visitor guide, phone calls to a visitor centre, and visitor packages are all considered marketing in one form or another. Even a visitor centre itself is technically a marketing tool if people from outside of that destination are utilizing it for information for that destination.
Somewhere in all of this, partly due to the closing of the Northern Frontier Visitor Centre, the City of Yellowknife requested within one of there current contracts with a local contractor that they created the new brand “Extraordinary Yellowknife”. A small amount of consultation was done in very specific markets, but few industry stakeholders seemed to know about the new brand development.
In 2016/2017, Yellowknife had 70,000 visitors come through the city. They contributed at least $90 million dollars to the Yellowknife economy.
Hotels are expanding and opening. Chateau Nova opened in fall of 2016, with their second phase to open soon. The Explore Hotel is in the midst of significant expansion. A new hotel on Franklin Avenue into Old Town is nearing completion. Airbnb continues to expand with the city having very little vacancy in months like February, March, and September.
The City of Yellowknife is only responsible for tourism activities done within the city boundaries. What happens on the Ingraham Trail past the Yellowknife River is the responsibility of the GNWT.
There is no Yellowknife tourism specific organization, association, society, oversight committee or advisory board.
And that is what I know of the Yellowknife Tourism Industry to date. Have I missed anything?
I certainly have opinions on some of these points, but I don’t want them to be perceived in a negative way. I truly believe that the way forward with this industry, because Yellowknife is a relatively small place, is through inclusive, transparent and open decision making.
I love Yellowknife and I am passionately driven to continuously promote and develop Yellowknife as a desirable place to live and visit. I want to be involved in how we develop it as a destination, even if that is just sitting in a consultation meeting or writing endless articles on the internet. Although, I hope it is much more.
Next, let’s look at some of those improvements we as a community can make to improve Yellowknife as a tourism destination.