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Canada's tourism strategy and policy in the North

Canada's tourism strategy and policy in the North

What types of tourism development strategies have been adopted in Canada by the territorial institutions of Nunavut, the Northwest Territories and the Yukon? With the collaboration of the Osservatorio Artico, Andrea Delvescovo returns to deal with the economics of tourism in Canada, this time with a look towards the North.



Andrea Delvescovo*

In collaboration with the Osservatorio Artico


In this article >>>

  • Canada's northern identity
  • The tourism strategy in Nunavut
    • Tourism programs
    • Tourism resources
  • The tourism strategy in the Northwest Territories
    • Characteristics of tourism in the Northwest Territories
  • Tourism in the Yukon
    • Yukon Tourism Development Strategy 2018-2028
  • Canada: sustainable and inclusive tourism destination


Canada's northern identity


Learning about Canada, studying its culture, geography and political choices, necessarily means taking a careful look at the issues of the north.


Arctic territories are an important part of Canada's identity and tell its story.

Just think that Arctic Canada and the Yukon Territory account for 40% of the country and are home to around 100,000 Canadians.


They are a crucial and strategic area for national identity, as well as for international geopolitics and relations between the world's powerful.


While the Ottawa government is committed to ensuring that global attention remains focused on the challenges and opportunities affecting the Arctic, both economically, politically and environmentally, territorial policies work for the full development of local communities and to foster tourism dynamics.

In this article we will analyze the tourism development strategies adopted by the territorial administrations of Nunavut, the Northwest Territories and the Yukon.


The tourism strategy in Nunavut


Tourism is an important sector for Nunavut's economy.


The Department of Economic Development and Transportation in 2010 created the Tourism and Cultural Industries Division to facilitate the tourism development of the area and guide the implementation of the government tourism strategy.


The strategic objectives of Nunavut's tourism policy can be summarized in two main points:

  1. Provide excellent advice and support services to the department, in the tourism, arts and crafts, film and performing arts sectors.
  2. Initiate, guide and coordinate the implementation of programs and strategies to develop the tourism sector and cultural industries of Nunavut.


Tourist programs

The tourism strategy is implemented through a series of tourism programs:


1. Community tourism and cultural industries program

This program aims to strengthen the infrastructure of the community and the tourism market, promoting the economic development of the music, multimedia, writing and entertainment industries.


The community tourism and cultural industries program is characterized by three sections (A, B, C):


A) Getting started, creation and training

This section is designed to support education and training to initiate, diversify or enhance service delivery, or develop artistic talent.


B) Product development and marketing

The program supports small businesses, organizations, individuals and municipalities that have identified a promising product or marketing opportunity.


C) Infrastructure improvement

Support for infrastructural development aims to increase the value of the tourism and cultural sector by financing small businesses, art studios, municipalities and other organizations


Among the funded projects:

  • artistic, cultural and tourist infrastructures
  • visitor centers and visitor welcome displays at Nunavut airports.
  • collective studios
  • community beautification and public art production


2. Small Business Support Program


The main objective of this program is to support the growth of emerging small startups.
Three funds (A, B, C) are also attributable to this program:


A) Small Business Opportunity Fund

This fund supports the start-up and expansion of businesses, the development of a commercial and marketing plan, new pilot projects, businesses and companies in difficulty.


B) Entrepreneur Development Fund

To support the training and development of entrepreneurial and managerial skills.


C) Sustainable Livelihood Fund

It finances the assistance of immediate legal or bookkeeping problems, the purchase of tools and other minor capital items and liability insurance for tour operators.


3. Strategic Investments Program


The program offers assistance to majority-owned businesses by Nunavut residents, municipalities, not-for-profit corporations and societies.


Under the program, businesses can get a contribution to cover expansion or start-up costs. Municipalities, not-for-profit corporations and societies can get funding for training, marketing and community development.


There are two funds within this program:


A) Nunavut Equity Investment Fund

This fund helps companies design a complete financing package for a major expansion or start-up, through specific guidelines and funding applications.


B) Nunavut Economic Foundations Fund

To build community economies and support regional economic development in key sectors of the Nunavut economy, providing contributions for events, professional development, education and training and physical community assets.


4. Nunavut Public Art Initiative


It is an opportunity to celebrate and enhance the works of art of the inhabitants of this area, hit by greater insecurity and uncertainty due to Covid-19.


The local government has implemented a strategy to support local artists, encouraging proposals to incentivize public art, through a competitive process.


The goal of this initiative is to realize an idea related to the concept of Inuuqatigiitsiarniq, or an Inuit social value that is based on the respect and well-being of others.


What is public art?

With public art, we mean a way of presenting and enjoying art that enters the social fabric and urban structure of the city.


Designed as site-specific, public art moves away from the idea of a monument with celebratory purposes and represents an opportunity to bring out creativity and at the same time to enhance or re-evaluate the city environment.


Tourism resources

For those interested in exploring specific tourism issues, the departmental portal is available, as well as the local tourist site Travel Nunavut.



The tourism strategy in the Northwest Territories


The NorthWest Territories (NWT) are also working with the local government to strengthen tourism and make this destination even more attractive.


The Ministry of Industry, Tourism and Investments (MITI), in collaboration with Tourism NWT, provides resources and support to the tourism sector of the NorthWest Territories, in particular for marketing, aboriginal tourism, local communities, infrastructure, skills development, research and planning.


Local government investments and initiatives as part of the “Tourism 2015 - New Directions for a Spectacular Future” plan have paid off.


The government action continued with the Tourism 2020 Plan - Inviting the World to Discover the NWT - A Spectacular Territory, a strategic investment plan of the Government of the Territories (GNWT) whose goal was to grow the industry up to 207 million dollars in revenue by 2020.


Obviously, as in the rest of the world, tourism in the NorthWest Territories has also suffered a decline in the number of visitors and tourist spending, due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the subsequent restrictions which have impacted heavily on the tourism supply chain.


Characteristics of tourism in the Northwest Territories

The tourist indicators of the situation prior to March 31, 2020 that emerge from the reports of the Research and Planning Unit of the Tourism and Parks Division on the main aspects of the tourism sector in the Territories are valuable data for the analysis of the peculiarities of tourism in this territory, regardless of the current difficult situation.


In fact, it emerges that tourism towards the Territories was growing, with an increase in both the number of tourists and visitor spending for almost all product categories.


The objective that the strategy set itself, before the pandemic, was in line with the excellent data recorded between April 2019 and March 2020: the total number of tourists welcomed was 117,620, while tourism expenditure stood at around 200 million. dollars.


Aurora Viewing records the most dynamic offer in the leisure segment, with double-digit annual growth (19%) in both visits and spending.


From the analyzes it appears that the main reasons for visiting were:

  • aurora viewing
  • general touring
  • visiting friends and relatives
  • outdoor adventure
  • fishing and hunting


The means most used by tourists was the plane, chosen above all by Asian tourists (24%).


Most of the NWT visitors are Canadian and come from other provinces and territories in Canada.


It is no coincidence that tourism marketing activities are aimed primarily at the Canadian market and secondly at the international market.


An interesting element is represented by the indigenous tourism industry which could make a significant contribution to the economic and cultural development of local communities.


Surveys by Destination Canada and Indigenous Tourism Association Of Canada (ITAC) have highlighted a growing demand for indigenous tourism products.


In 2018, NWT Tourism, GNWT and ITAC signed a Memorandum of Understanding to work together to promote aboriginal tourism in NWT.


Among the strategies considered effective for the development of indigenous tourism, there is the commitment to re-establish and instill a sense of pride and belonging in indigenous cultures and traditions.


The partnership focuses on shared marketing activities and on making training materials available to increase indigenous tourism providers and prepare them for the market.


Tourism in the Yukon


In the Yukon, tourism has already reached important goals and represents a strategic asset for local communities.


In 2018, the tourism sector generated $ 146.1 million, or 5.0% of the Yukon's total GDP.


The Yukon business community estimates that in 2018, $ 367.8 million of their gross revenue was generated by the tourism supply chain.


In the pre-pandemic period (2019), the Yukon tourism sector accounted for approximately 2,360 jobs, equivalent to 9% of all jobs in the territory.


The average wage (wages and benefits) for tourism workers was $ 31.13 per hour in 2019, while the total compensation (wages and benefits) of tourism workers was $ 117.4 million in 2019. with an increase of $ 4.6 million (4.1%) compared to 2018.


In 2017-2018, visitors spent $ 148 million in the Yukon, not counting the $ 428.9 million spent on travel packages that include a stop in the Yukon.


Yukon Tourism Development Strategy 2018-2028


The government, given the excellent numbers of 2018, has decided to set up a steering committee to provide strategic advice to the minister of tourism and culture, regarding the development of a multi-year strategy aimed at territorial tourism development.


The overall goal was to develop a strategy, which had an inclusive vision in which all the inhabitants of the Yukon could see and recognize.


The Yukon Tourism Development Strategy is based on three directions:

  • Thriving Tourism Economy
  • Sustainable Tourism Development
  • Resident Support for Tourism  


The first objective of the strategy is to invest in local infrastructure and in the promotion of the destination to attract more visitors and increase the spending of tourists in the area.

Another key factor of the strategy is the protection of natural resources:


find the balance between hospitality and economic growth in order to protect the natural environment.


Moreover, the focus is placed on the enhancement and protection of indigenous cultures, the heritage and identity of local communities, (including significant historical events such as the Klondike gold rush).


The knowledge, values and cultures of the First Nations are the foundation and basis of the community identity of the territory and are placed at the center of any promotional action


Canada: a sustainable and inclusive tourism destination


In conclusion, the northern territories of Canada express an offer that can be said to be unique, closer to the vision of sustainable tourism, far from the experience of mass tourism.

In this sense, the Canadian tourism strategy is focusing on strengthening local communities, including indigenous and rural communities, placing residents at the center of storytelling.


Destination Canada, the national tourism promotion agency, recently announced a $ 30 million investment in provincial and territorial marketing organizations to support local communities and mitigate the effects of COVID-19.


Canada can also represent in tourism, therefore, a laboratory to follow closely.

  • First, for policies aimed at seeking a balance between economic development and protection of the natural and social ecosystem.
  • Furthermore, the shift of the budget on intramoenia tourism, pending the possibility of resuming international movements, is an innovative investment scheme at a time when the resilience of the tourism sector is an expected response in all countries, especially in those with a tourist and cultural vocation such as Italy.


*Graduated in Languages and Communications for Tourism and Business,

Centro Studi Italia-Canada and Osservatorio Artico's Editor


On the cover a landscape of Nunavut, ©Destination Canada via Brand Canada Library.


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