Tsiigehtchic, Northwest Territories' newly formed tourism society says the community needs to make key upgrades in order to draw in a larger number of the tourists who drive up the Dempster Highway each summer.

Bob Mumford

Bob Mumford is chair of Tsiigehtchic's newly formed tourism society that hopes to expand the range activities and services for tourists in the community. (David Thurton/CBC)

"There are some that come by accident and they don't understand the ferry and that it has three points," says Bob Mumford, chair of the tourism society. The ferry connects the Dempster Highway on either side of the Mackenzie River and also crosses the Arctic Red River to stop in Tsiigehtchic. 

Whether tourists end up in the hamlet of 160 people deliberately or by accident, the community wants to make their visit memorable.

Anne Koko, a tourism development officer with the Government of the Northwest Territories, says Tsiigehtchic needs to position itself because tourism numbers are expected to rise in the region when the Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk highway is completed in 2017 or 2018.

"The extension of the highway to Tuk is certainly a big draw," Koko says.

According to Koko, part of getting ready will be making sure that the community has signs to direct visitors as well as having bathrooms and campgrounds for tourists who want to stay overnight.

"Tsiigehtchic is a small community," says Koko, "and what we would consider traditional tourism infrastructure... they are working towards that."

Last summer the community opened its visitor’s centre, which includes a kitchen for campers and groups. And now that Tsiigehtchic has a tourism society, Koko says the community can apply for over $250,000 in funding from the territorial government over the next five years.

Mumford says the tourism society is looking ahead. 

"We'd like to put together proposals of what we'd like to do in our first year," he says. 

Those proposals could include starting walking tours, as well as sessions with elders that teach beading and how the community's famous dry fish is made.

The society also wants to refurbish the hamlet's run down Catholic Church, built in the 1920s and no longer in use.

Eventually, Mumford says, they might designate camping areas and introduce fees. There is currently a makeshift camping area beside the ferry landing that has a picnic table and an outhouse.