NWT Tourism on Monday announced the departure of chief executive officer Cathie Bolstad, who has led the agency since April 2014.
Harold Grinde, NWT Tourism’s chairperson, said in an email to tour operators a replacement was set to be appointed by the end of the year. Bolstad will leave in December “to pursue new projects and passions,” Grinde wrote.
He said Bolstad, a former executive at De Beers, Northwestel, and the CBC, had helped the NWT attract more conferences and worked to open up Asian tourism markets.
According to Grinde, visits to the territory grew by 42 percent in the past five years on her watch.
“Cathie has worked on many regulatory and red tape matters for individual members and for our industry as a whole over her six years with us,” Grinde wrote.
“Her advocacy work is always focused on making it easier for the private sector to succeed while ensuring there is a lens on sustainable tourism and positive resident sentiment in a growing visitor economy.”
NWT Tourism’s new leader will inherit a tricky position as the organization attempts to sustain an industry deeply damaged by the Covid-19 pandemic.
While some tour operators were able to swiftly pivot this summer to the only market available – staycations for NWT residents – what might happen in the longer term is unclear.
If leisure visits to the territory remain prohibited into 2021 or beyond, operators will be faced with the prospect of writing off or vastly altering multiple seasons.
Even if both the NWT and Canadian borders fully reopen, there is no guarantee that the travel trade will immediately rebound, particularly the Asian market targeted by most of the territory’s operators.
In its latest economic assessment earlier this month, think tank the Conference Board of Canada declared the travel industry to be among “the most affected” by the pandemic “and slowest to recover.”