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Ecotourism takes off

Nicole Veerman
Northern News Services
Published Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Arviat's efforts to attract ecotourists to the community are already working.

Last month a group of Japanese tourists visited the community for a wildlife tour, which included four nights on the land, and, this month, the hamlet is expecting a group from Ukraine, said Louisa Gibbons from the Margaret Aniksak Visitors Centre.

"They want to see our land," she said.

Arviat launched an ecotourism initiative last summer. The focus is to expose Arviat as a culture and wildlife destination.

Ryan St. John, of Henik Lake Adventures, provided the camp facility and hired the guide who helped the Japanese tourists last month. He said they came to see the wildlife.

"They came up for photography and they saw wolves and muskox and caribou and waterfalls and all kinds of birds. They were quite happy," he said.

St. John was happy, too. He said it's a good sign the Arviat Community Ecotourism project is working.

"We're definitely gaining a presence in the ecotourism market," he said.

"Word is finally starting to get around that Arviat is a destination for polar bear watching and photography, so we're starting to get some interest."

He said there is still a lot of work needed to ensure Arviat remains a destination. It takes five to 10 years for a place to fully make a home in a market, he said. The community needs to get behind the project and make an effort to work with it, he said, noting that Arviat has everything it needs to be a successful tourist spot.

"Arviat is wildlife-rich. We have a lot of wildlife, a lot of caribou, polar bear, wolves, wolverines, we've got some bird sanctuaries close to where we are, the land is beautiful and it's a very traditional community, so I think if we can showcase that to the world and to the ecotourism market. I think we have our place in the market."

And the community will gain a lot from exploring ecotourism and attracting people to the community, he said.

"It will create some short term jobs and some spin offs, increase the store purchases, increase sales in arts and crafts, taxis benefit, vehicle rentals, there's a lot of spinoff benefits.

"Any new money we can get into our communities is obviously going to be a big benefit versus the same money circulating four or five times. New money is what creates wealth and we're hoping that this will take off and bring in a lot of new money.

"We're just into the second year now, so there's still a long road ahead, but I think we have all the right elements in our community to make it happen."

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