When Northwest Territories Tourism launches a new website aimed at drawing conventions and meetings early next year, Yellowknife will share centre stage with Fort Smith, Hay River, Inuvik, and Norman Wells.
Although the capital is the travel hub for the territory, with the most hotel rooms and convention facilities, “our mandate is to grow traffic to all locations,” Cathie Bolstad, NWT Tourism’s Executive Director, told EDGEYK.com.
NWT Tourism will get an extra $100,000 a year for the next two years to cover the salary of one person, and marketing the territory to convention planners at trade shows across Canada and North America.
The allocation – meager beside the Yukon Convention Bureau’s $1.5 million a year – will be extended with money from NWT Tourism’s marketing budget and in-kind donations from the travel industry, Bolstad said.
A proposal to fund an independent convention bureau with a room tax – a plan backed by Yellowknife hoteliers, city council and the NWT Association of Communities – has failed to find support with the territorial government.
First conference lead
Tourism NWT’s convention coordinator Michele Handley already has her first potential client. The Egg Farmers of Canada are looking at Yellowknife as a location for their 2016 national meeting, which could bring 350 delegates to the city.
Such gatherings are important not just for the boost they give to hotels and restaurants, but for the side-trips delegates take during what is, for most, a once-in-a-lifetime visit to the NWT.
It’s a lucrative and highly competitive market. In 2012-13, 76,400 people visited the territory, among them 24,100 business travelers who spent $48.1 million – almost half the $105.8 million all visitors paid for their northern experience.
Bolstad said the key to adding value from convention and business travelers is co-ordinating their visits with guides and outfitters for fishing trips, wildlife viewing, and cultural experiences.
Over the past decade, the NWT has styled itself as the world aurora capital. That pulled in 15,700 visitors in 2012-13 and 21,700 last year, “so we’re doing something right,” Bolstad said.
Aurora tourism has proved so lucrative that other destinations have elbowed into the market, Bolstad said, “so we’re telling travelers that they have a 95 per cent chance of seeing the aurora here. No one else can make that claim.”
Lead with our best
At the annual general meeting next week in Yellowknife, “we’ll emphasize pride in performance,” said Bolstad, with a new slogan: “lead with our best and raise the bar for the rest,” and Outcrop Communications as NWT Tourism’s new agency of record.
In an era when travelers give instant feedback on their experience via websites, such as Trip Advisor, Bolstad said its more important than ever for the industry to meet and exceed expectations. “Our reputation is at the mercy of reviewers.”
According to Trip Advisor, Yellowknife is “a small but diverse city famous for its spectacular wilderness… on the edge of the Arctic Circle. Once a gold rush town and now a diamond mining town, Yellowknife is the hub of northern activities, from dog sledding and cross country skiing to backpack and birding.”
The number one attraction: Cameron River Falls trail, followed by Northern Frontier Visitors Centre, Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre, the Legislative Assembly, Aurora Village, Old Town, and the Frame Lake Trail.
The Gold Range is the city’s top nightlife draw, followed by the Black Knight and After Eight Billiards. And under things to do, Yellowknife Outdoor Adventures and North Star Adventures are tops with Trip Advisor reviewers.