It’s summer in Nunavut, and as the beaches fill with sealift containers, the streets – in the capital, at least – are filled with visitors and construction vehicles. They’re both critical to the Nunavut economy but we can see the fallout when the two clash.
Hotel Arctic is expected to close. Though it would make great student housing to replace the fire-lost Old Res, if local speculation is truth, it is also a loss of a significant space for tourists and business visitors. Is the capacity available elsewhere to replace this loss? Time will tell.
As the hotel closes, the city will likely lose, at least temporarily, a restaurant and a pub, both of which are well-frequented.
It’s unfortunate timing in light of the fact the new airport is set to open next month, with the intention to better support visitors to the territory. The loss of amenities makes the city less attractive to visitors and to those considering living here.
At the same time, a new hotel is being discussed for the land currently occupied by the Tukisigiarvik Friendship Centre. Unfortunately, that means the centre could face eviction.
The friendship centre is a significant supporter of Inuit and a safe space to go during the day to reconnect with traditional ways, while providing breakfast, access to country food, counselling, land skills training, and workshops such as kamiik making. The loss of the centre, even temporarily, is sure to have a profound impact on the lives of the people who use it.
It is a loss for local residents in favour of the construction of a hotel that will benefit visitors. Some of these visitors will be coming from other communities within Nunavut, and others will be coming to do work that support Nunavummiut. But efforts must be made to reduce any negative impact on local residents.
It’s a delicate balance to find in the quest to increase economic opportunities for Nunavummiut. Outside of government, resource extraction and construction, promoting tourism is seen as an opportunity worth the investment. The capital certainly needs hotels and restaurants. Communities across Nunavut are building visitor centres and other tourism supports to draw money from outside to local outfitters and artists.
Communities along the Northwest Passage are especially hopeful they will be able to reap the rewards. Gjoa Haven has seen a wealth of investment that was only ramped up in the wake of the discovery of the Franklin expedition ships.
But the promise of big money from cruise passengers and other tourism operations needs to be tempered by the realities on the ground. Various artists and economic development officers have told us that they don’t see the benefits if their communities are a middle stop on a cruise itinerary, as passengers tend to spend all their souvenir money at the beginning, or save it for the end.
The growth of the tourism economy is slow here, so it’s important to maintain a holistic approach to progress. Just as it is critical to continue to invest in hotels, etc., it is equally – perhaps more – important to invest in the people here and improving the quality of life.
With this in mind, we call on landlords, politicians, and regular folk to help support organizations survive the changes afoot. Progress is good, but for Tukisigiarvik and others, Nunavut can’t let progress mean negative outcomes for the people who need the support of such organizations.