Amid hotel room shortage, Yellowknife tourists sleep in tents and cars

This month alone, 9,000 tourists have visited the city — mostly from China and Korea. Some are making unique arrangements to find a place to sleep.

'Leaves us in a bit of a predicament,' says Barry Edwards. 'Basically we are homeless'

Barry and Barbara Edwards came to Yellowknife from Toronto to see the aurora. They couldn't find a hotel room, and ended up pitching a tent in the backyard of a bed and breakfast. (Marc Winkler/CBC)

Barbara and Barry Edwards drove to Yellowknife from Toronto to see some Northern lights. During the cross-country trip, they had no trouble finding accommodation, until they reached the northern capital.

Despite the opening of brand new 140-room hotel and dozens of new Airbnb options over the past year, there are no rooms for rent in the city.

"Leaves us in a bit of a predicament," Barry Edwards said. "Basically we are homeless."

The Northern Frontier Visitors Centre says fall is the height of aurora season, and this year is likely going to set a record for visitors taking it in.

This month alone, 9,000 tourists have visited the city — mostly from China and Korea.

"Our numbers are constantly increasing," said Tracy Therrien, the centre's executive director.

In 2014, the centre logged 25,000 visitors, Therrien said. In 2016, that number doubled to 50,000.

"That's how quickly our tourism numbers are growing and it's not going to slow down anytime soon."

Hide-a-beds and rental cars

Elijah Forget also works at the visitors centre. He says about 90 per cent of the visitors he's spoken to made bookings long ago, and those who found themselves out of luck have found some interesting solutions.

"One group was willing to sleep on a hide-a-bed in the living room of a B n' B. Another group looked and looked, couldn't find anything, and then they made plans to sleep in their rented car."

Barb and Barry Edwards found a solution too. They'll be setting up a tent in the backyard of a bed and breakfast.

It might prove a bit easier to find a bed next fall. A new hotel is going up on Franklin Avenue and the Explorer Hotel is planning an expansion.


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