Tourism target
Markets are waiting to be tapped

Doug Ashbury
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Mar 22/00) - If you're looking for a Northern tourism niche market, there is a product that could have winner written all over it.

Speaking at the NWT Chamber of Commerce annual general meeting in Norman Wells over the weekend, Robin Reilly, the GNWT's director of parks and tourism in Yellowknife, said there is a significant number of wealthy Japanese looking for a product that not only gives their kids an outdoor adventure but also the chance to learn English.
Tourism jobs

- Last year, tourism created 229 equivalent full-time jobs in the NWT. Because tourism is seasonal, this translates into about 1,000 people who derive some employment income from visitor spending.

- For every 1,000 visitors, 6.5 equivalent full-time jobs are created. This figure is based on road tourists. Northern lights visitors and outfitter guests have a greater effect on direct employment (hotel staff, guides, cooks, etc.)

- Tourists spend about $25 million a year in the NWT. But about 60 per cent of that money leaks out of the territory as the money ultimately ends up in the hands of a non-NWT company.

- In 1998, about 45,500 people visited the NWT, up slightly from about 43,200 who visited the NWT in 1994 (the most recent prior year of a survey). Of the total, about 18,500 were on holiday while about the same amount came North for business. The remainder, about 8,500, were in the NWT visiting friends and relatives.


This is something "begging to be done," Reilly said. They want to send them (their kids) somewhere they can learn outdoor skills, somewhere that's isolated and safe, even more, they want them to get English as a second language."

Reilly also said when it comes to international markets, the NWT is not tapping the growing South Korean market. The number of South Koreans travelling to Canada is up about 50 per cent in the past year compared to 1998, he said.

When it comes to tourism, South Koreans are largely interested in the same things the Japanese are keen to do. But what makes the South Korean market a bit different is that it is very much a newly-wed market, he says.

If South Koreans want to see the northern lights and they are on their honeymoon, there is potential to tie diamonds and diamond jewelry into the product, Reilly said.

"We have to go after niche markets."

Another niche, suggests Reilly, is the Alberta Teachers' Association. Reilly says many of the NWT's summer tourists are teachers from Alberta. NWT Chamber of Commerce executive director Bob Brooks agreed.

"We're always getting requests from schools for information about the NWT," he said.

According to a 1998 tourism survey, 28 per cent of visitors to the NWT that summer were in the field of education. And according to the 1999 ferry crossing data by the province, half the vehicles coming into the NWT are from Alberta.

But, adds Reilly, nothing is being done to attract more Alberta teachers to the NWT.

Currently, only about $550,000 hits the streets for NWT tourism marketing. The territorial government's budget of $1.8 million for tourism is a third of what it was about eight years ago, Reilly said.

Despite the cuts, Reilly said the industry is getting creative with what money it has. He pointed to an NWT display that will be going up at the Calgary airport -- the space was free -- and to partnering efforts with other activities like fur shows.

The department also gets revenue from the sale of outdoor-related items at its park locations. A coming television piece featuring the Mackenzie River could also help tourism, Reilly said. The show is part of the Great Canadian Rivers series, a follow-up to the Great Canadian Parks series.

As for what needs to be done next to increase the growth of the NWT's tourism sector, Reilly said one move will be to work with organizations like the NWT chamber.

Doug Willy, an associate director on the NWT Chamber with Diavik Diamond Mines, who travels frequently, said the interest in the NWT is out there. Diavik has put together information its employees carry with them when travelling. He suggests there should be a page of information for business travellers to hand out to people asking about the NWT.

A one-page sheet, with a 1-800 number, Web sites and other basic information, could nudge southerners into taking a trip to the NWT, it was suggested.