Cruising is on the rise
Increase in the number of visitors raises issues

Andrea Cnudde
Northern News Services

IQALUIT (Aug 16/99) - With cruise ships visiting more Baffin hamlets than ever this year, some communities around the region feel it's time to get organized.

Community economic development officer for Cape Dorset, David Patrick, has strong opinions about the tourism industry and its impact on the communities around the territory. With a reputation for great art and a multitude of well-known historical sights, Cape Dorset can afford to have its own opinions.

This hamlet has long been a regular stop on the cruise ship circuit and Patrick feels they are in a very real bargaining position when it comes to what tourists want out of a trip to the North and what they'll pay to get it.

In the relatively short tourist season, less than 45 days says Patrick, the communities should do their utmost to maximize local employment and benefits. He would like to see the communities get together for discussion that would address issues such as cost per head, deposits, length of stay, overtime pay for staff.

"Some of these tour operators are tough negotiators," he says. "Some people are going to get taken advantage of."

Patrick wants to reduce the chance of that happening. What he would like to see happen by the communities working together is the adoption of a "common philosophical standpoint. Not price fixing," he says. "Just reasonable standards."

He thinks that all of the destinations are in a bargaining position.

"Without the communities, they don't have a tour," he says. "The communities have to regard what they're supplying more along the lines of costs of goods sold.

"What (tourists) are getting is four to eight hours of in-depth cultural programming," he says.

Kimmirut is another example of how a community can profit from developing a process for dealing with tour groups.

Robert Jaffrey is the manager of the tourist office and he agrees that a more organized approach benefits not only the community but also the individual tourist. Kimmirut has a local tourism committee that negotiates with the tour operators in advance and offers a shore package that is factored into the cruise price. He says that most travellers may not realize that what they are experiencing is an organized tour of these communities, not just a reaction from the residents like "we're so glad you are here, so let's put on a show."

"If (tour operators) know ahead of time what we have to offer, they can build it into their package," Jaffrey says.

Greg Logan of Nunavut Tourism says that at this point there is no plan to develop a Nunavut-wide strategy or to set industry standard guidelines. Logan is the tourism development co-ordinator for the Baffin Region and says that the issue being raised at the last Nunavut CEDO workshop held in Rankin Inlet in February has been the only formal dialogue so far.

"Not a lot came out of that meeting in terms of structure or guidelines," Logan said.

He agrees that more interaction between the communities is a good idea.

"It's healthy and necessary to have discussions," he says, "to hear how the individual communities deal with this."

While communities like Cape Dorset and Kimmirut are looking at ways to benefit more from the cruise ships, Arctic Bay is simply glad to have the tourists stop in their community.

Although Arctic Bay also welcomes the tourists with organized tours and events, it's done with a different approach.

"We don't charge anything," hamlet senior administrator, Cecil Marshall, says. "It's great to have them stop here. It's been awhile."

Marshall says that because Arctic Bay is not a regular stop on the circuit and a fairly recent addition to the tours, they are happy with any revenue generated in the town, even if it is indirect revenue from taxis and shopping.

As for Arctic Bay's future with the cruise ship industry, Marshall is optimistic.

"Eventually we'd like to see a committee form to address this," he says. "These things only work well if the local residents get involved."

While all seem to agree that more communication and organization among the hamlets would be positive, the general consensus is that overall regulation would not be good for the industry. A large part of the attraction of the Arctic is the unspoiled, natural environment, says Patrick.

"The average tourist to the North is well-travelled, well-educated and looking for a cultural experience," he says.