The number of cruise ships visiting Nunavut this summer is down, a worry for some who want to see tourists spend money on local artisans and wares.

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Pangnirtung usually receives four of five cruise ships a year but expects to only see one this summer. ((CBC))

Only 19 have docked at communities across the territory so far and tourism officials would like to see more from the government to promote the area.

"I think it would be good to have an awareness program for Nunavut Tourism, or the Department of Economic Development and Transportation to attend trade shows and other functions in other countries [to] benefit Nunavut in the long run," said Madeleine Qumuatuq, economic development officer for Pangnirtung. 

The small community on Baffin Island usually receives four or five ships each year — partly because of the interest in cruises through the Northwest Passage —but expects to only see one this summer. 

Although the season is not complete, data shows the decline in visits might be a trend. In 2009, 47 visited communities in Nunavut compared to 70 the year before.

However, that slowdown was attributed to the global recession, the government said at the time.

Qumuatuq also said the amount of money spent by tourists depends on the type of visitors.

"We’ve noticed that over the years, if it’s a general cruise ship then there’s not a whole lot of sales, but if it’s a cruise ship that have artists from other countries, then we find sales are much greater," she said.

Visitors don't spend 'a ton of money'

However, Jackie Dawson from the University of Ottawa, has spent the last two years looking at cruise ship tourism in the Arctic and said the industry might not have a huge economic effect on the territory.

"This is not an uncommon concern with cruise ship tourism anywhere because cruise ships sail up, people go off the ships for relatively short amount of time and then they're heading back to their ships," she said. "So, not a ton of money is spent in the communities."  

Dawson and her team have been consulting residents in Cambridge Bay, Gjoa Haven and Pond Inlet and will present their findings in Iqaluit on Friday.