Nunavut tourism expected to rebound

Tourism in Nunavut is expected to bounce back this year from last year's recession, according to Nunavut Tourism.

16 cruises planned for this summer; 4 in Northwest Passage

Tourism in Nunavut is expected to bounce back this year from last year's recession, according to Nunavut Tourism.

Tourism numbers were down about five per cent last year, but the overall number of visitors — including those on cruises that travel through Nunavut waters — is expected to come back up this summer.

"We do expect to hold our own and probably have a small increase over last year," Nunavut Tourism executive director Colleen Dupuis told CBC News on Wednesday.

Dupuis said cruise ship companies are planning to hold 16 cruises through Nunavut waters this summer, with at least four travelling through the Northwest Passage.

"This summer right now, we have 16 boats that we know that are coming through — 16 cruises, [since] some of them are in the same boat," she said.

"Last year we probably had around 12, so there is an increase."

1 in 5 tourists on cruises

Tourism contributes close to $30 million to the territory's economy in a normal year, Dupuis said.

A recent survey shows cruise ship tourists account for one in five visitors to Nunavut. Other tourists take advantage of community stays, lodges or trips out onto the land, according to the survey.

While four cruises are scheduled to go through the Northwest Passage this summer, other cruises will at least see parts of the fabled Arctic waterway.

Nunavummiut living along the Northwest Passage often benefit from cruises stopping in their communities, with many putting on traditional Inuit cultural displays or selling crafts to visitors.

In Gjoa Haven, one of the stopping points along the passage, Mayor Joannie Sallerina said they are planning to build a new visitors' centre. Materials for the centre are expected to arrive this year, he said.

"I think that will really help give information to the cruise ships that come up the Northwest Passage and stop in Gjoa Haven," Sallerina said.

Sallerina said Gjoa Haven can potentially benefit more from cruise ship tourism if the hamlet can boost its advertising and infrastructure.

"Unfortunately, it's not their first stop or their last stop, so they don't tend to spend a lot of money," he said.

As for the new visitors' centre, Sallerina said the building will look like a sail — perhaps fitting for Gjoa Haven, which hosted Roald Amundsen on the first recorded journey through the Northwest Passage.