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Acing national recognition
Arviat Community Ecotourism initiative wins prestigious award

Darrell Greer
Northern News Services
Published Wednesday, March 13, 2013

A unique Arviat tourism project received national acclaim at a gala awards ceremony in Toronto on March 6.

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Arviat tourism coordinator Olivia Tagalik displays the plaque she brought back to her community after the Arviat Community Ecotourism Initiative was named to Tides Canada's Top 10 list of leading social change initiatives for 2012 on March 6. - photo courtesy of Tides Canada

The Arviat Community Ecotourism (ACE) initiative was named as one of Tides Canada's Top 10 winners at the event.

The Top 10 list was unveiled with more than 200 guests in attendance at the Arta Gallery in Toronto.

Tides is Canada's largest public charitable foundation for social justice and the environment, and home to a shared platform for 40 inhouse projects, ranging from neighbourhood-scale social initiatives to national conservation efforts.

The top 10 winners are organizations, communities or individuals who align with Tides' mandate to create opportunities for people to escape poverty, strengthen their communities and live on a healthy planet.

Mike Robbins of The Tourism Company, which oversees the ACE initiative, said the community of Arviat deserves the credit for coming a long way in a short period of time with the ACE initiative.

He said Tides has a large range of private and corporate donors who supply funds for Tides to direct toward charitable projects.

"The projects fall within the double-area focus of Tides; environmental and social issues," said Robbins.

"Tides also gets directly involved with some envelope-pushing types of conservation and conservation-economy initiatives, such as the Great Bear Rainforest on the west coast of British Columbia.

"It was a big part of helping to raise the private-sector funds to assist with conservation and sustainable economic development in that rainforest.

"It also helped to protect a large area of the region, as it's a very sensitive natural area that's home to numerous First Nations."

Robbins said Tides Canada is well-respected within the charitable, environmental and social sectors.

He said being selected to its top 10 list is very prestigious, and he's extremely proud and excited to have ACE named as one of the 2012 recipients.

"This is a huge honour for everyone involved with ACE.

"Olivia Tagalik (Arviat tourism co-ordinator) and I attended to accept the award, which does a couple of things for ACE.

"It provides a lot of exposure through Tides' networks and affiliations across Canada, which all promote the top 10 via their websites and various social media avenues.

"It will also, potentially, result in some very useful donations to assist ACE in the future."

Robbins and Tagalik met after the ceremony with two representatives of the Planeterra Foundation, which makes donations throughout the world to community-based tourism initiatives in destinations where its affiliate, G Adventures, travels.

G Adventures is marketing and selling Arviat and the ACE program.

Robbins said ACE hopes to have a couple of small groups visit Arviat through G Adventures this coming fall.

He said the award could result in charitable donations to the Hamlet of Arviat to assist with ACE training and, possibly, its marketing needs.

"We'll follow-up on those leads and see where they take us.

"The award also enhances the credibility of ACE in addition to, possibly, attracting some philanthropic donations to assist with the program's aims going forward."

Robbins said Tides Canada made a point of citing at its heart that ACE is cultural tourism involving a diverse range of age groups among its community participants, from elders to youths.

He said ACE employs Arviatmiut in numerous positions, from cooks to eco-guides and cultural performers.

"The main thing Tides cited in awarding this to ACE was the fact the people

of Arviat have been empowered through tourism to develop an amazing program.

"We owe thanks for the initial funding through the Kivalliq Inuit Association and Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. from the conservation areas - Inuit Impact and Agreement Benefits - to get this project started.

"ACE is empowering an Inuit community to develop a tourism economy through culture and sustainable community-based tourism."

Robbins said ACE was the only true tourism initiative on Tides' Top 10 list.

He said ACE has exceeded expectations in many ways since training began in 2010, but there's still a ways to go in marketing and attracting small groups to the community.

"That takes time to develop, which is common to any tourism destination with the remoteness of Arviat and the costs involved," Robbins said.

"There's a lack of awareness in the marketplace, so creating that awareness is a lot of what you do the first few years.

"We're working primarily through the travel trade to create awareness and interest, as well as the Internet.

"They always say, in the tourism industry, it takes at least three years to really get established and it's probably a little bit longer for us, given the type of experience we're dealing with, the remoteness and the cost of getting there."

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