Tuktoyaktuk, N.W.T. residents preparing for expected influx of thousands of tourists this summer

Six new businesses have started up in the hamlet since the highway came in, and more are expected to open. There have been a few hundred extra tourists over the winter months.

At least six new businesses have opened up in anticipation of Inuvik Tukoyaktuk highway tourism boom

Richard Cockney has been hunting for more than 20 years, and now he's started a tour business to take people hunting for big game. (Submitted by Richard Cockney)

Business is set to boom in the community at the end of the road.

Tuktoyaktuk is home to six new businesses since the Inuvik Tuktoyaktuk highway opened in November. And more are expected, according to the hamlet's economic development officer, Annie Steen, who is confident those businesses have plenty of new visitors to serve.

"This is over and above the regular business travellers that do come to the community," said Steen. "Anywhere from two to three-hundred tourists that have come since the highway opened."

This is just the beginning, according to Steen. She said the hamlet, which has a population of around 900 people, is expecting 5,000 to 10,000 tourists over the summer.

"That's realistic for us," she said.

New hunting outfitters and restaurants open

Steen said many people waited for the road to officially open before applying for grant money to start up a business, because they wanted to make sure it was actually going to happen.

One new business is Cockney Big Game Hunting. Richard Cockney has been hunting for more than 20 years, and he finished the paperwork to start his business last week.

He's taking his first client out this weekend for a grizzly bear hunt.

"The highway kind of boosted my motivation to get it done because I knew there was going to be more tourists coming," said Cockney. He has three more hunts booked for June.

Steen said some businesses are also expanding, like the End of the Road Ltd., which put in a sit-down restaurant.

She said the new highway is important to Tuktoyaktuk's economy.

"Tourism is going to be our only economic base until the moratorium on offshore gas development and exploration is lifted [by] the federal government," she said.

"This is the only thing that we've got going for us at the present moment."

Business-building workshop coming to hamlet

But there is one problem. Steen said many people don't know how to start a tourism business. So the Department of Industry, Tourism, and Investment and the Hamlet of Tuktoyaktuk are bringing in a workshop to teach people how to do just that on Monday.

The department has also invested $90,000 through the Support for Entrepreneurs and Economic Development fund, which went to events and businesses in the community.