New tourism organization
Changes in government funding practices make it possible

by Nancy Gardiner
Northern News Services

INUVIK (Mar 17/97) - Changes in government funding practices and the need to grab a community's attention have given birth to a new tourism organization forming in the western Arctic.

And the reaction of the business community so far is "positive but skeptical," says Robert Cook, a member of the interim board of the new Beaufort Delta Board of Tourism and Trade.

The board has slated its first general public meeting on March 20 at the Aurora College Resource room at 7:30 p.m. in Inuvik.

General elections of board members and officers will be held at that time.

The Inuvik Chamber of Commerce was to meet last Thursday to decide if it was going to participate in the new group.

However, that meeting was postponed for at least two weeks due to illness, says Mary Beckett, who was asked by the Western Arctic Tourism Association (WATA) to set up the meeting. Beckett is a board member of the Inuvik Chamber of Commerce.

Beckett explained that the Inuvik Chamber has been "on hold" as a group since it began meeting with WATA in October.

The chamber shrunk from 12 members to five due to people leaving town, so it is still operating with its 1996 board, Beckett says.

It hopes to address the problem at its coming meeting either through an election of board members to the chamber or a decision to join the new Tourism and Trade Board.

WATA, meanwhile, will decide on Wednesday if it wants to join.

However, there are already WATA board members on the interim board for the new Trade and Tourism Board.

Robert Cook is the business manager for Gwich'in Geographics and one of five interim board members.

He says the new group was formed after attempts to merge the Inuvik Chamber of Commerce and WATA failed.

"It seemed they were going back and forth with the same issues since late October or early November. We felt they needed some incentive," says Cook.

Beth Green of WATA and Cook provided the impetus to get the new organization going.

Originally, the two organizations were going to merge because they couldn't get enough people to attend their meetings, says Cook.

Alan Fehr, a member of WATA, also sits on the interim board for the new organization and runs a dog mushing business called Mackenzie-Delta Sled Dog Tours. He says WATA used to be funded by government, but that changed when the GNWT cut its funding from seven tourism zones to just two -- Nunavut and the Western Arctic.

As a result, WATA has been largely inactive for some time.

The new organization plans to join the NWT Chamber of Commerce as a voting member, publish a regional business directory this May, do some fundraising and have a membership drive this spring.

"We saw an opportunity since there were many projects we were bringing on stream that are regional in scope," says Cook.

Representatives plan to attend the NWT Chamber of Commerce annual general meeting in April.

The new Beaufort Delta Board of Tourism and Trade is already a registered society.

It plans to offer its new members access to group health insurance, preferred advertising rates, a web site and Canadian Chamber of Commerce affiliation.

"We don't just want the town of Inuvik. We want to encourage participation of the region and western NWT," says Fehr.