More than 75,000 tourists visited the Northwest Territories in 2017-18 – a record, the territorial government declared on Thursday.
Added to almost 36,000 business travellers, a total of 112,530 people made trips to the NWT between April 2017 and March 2018.
The figure for tourists is up 30 percent in a five-year span, from 58,610 to 76,730.
Wally Schumann, the tourism minister, called the figures “promising for the future of our growing industry” in a statement.
Total spending from all visitors, combining tourists and business trips, reached $203 million – also a record high – in figures published by the Department of Industry, Tourism, and Investment (ITI) this week.
While there is no regional breakdown available, those figures show aurora viewing brought almost 35,000 people to the NWT in 2017-18, which represents a 60 percent increase on the 2013-14 figure.
However, fishing tourism has decreased by 30 percent – down to 3,900 people – in the same span.
Following the opening of the Inuvik-Tuk Highway, Schumann said early figures suggested park permits issued in the Beaufort Delta had doubled, while visitor centre numbers in Inuvik and Tuktoyaktuk had significantly increased.
Despite the increase in visitors, Yellowknife remains without a permanent tourist centre since the Northern Frontier Visitors Centre closed in May 2017.
Responding to questions from Yellowknife Centre MLA Julie Green in the legislature this week, Schumann said: “We realize the urgency around it.”
He continued: “We are in discussions with the City of Yellowknife on moving forward on how we can work with the City and planning with ITI and some other key partners around this initiative.”
With Schumann unable to provide a clear timeline for the introduction of a new centre, Green stressed: “We are now a year and a half without a visitors’ centre and with no firm plan to replace it. Being able to say when that might happen … I think would be very useful.”