Tlicho region looks for economic boost 'Tourism is absolutely massive so where do we start?'
Northern News Services
Saturday, January 23, 2016
A new group in the Tlicho region is looking to jumpstart each community's local economy, with a keen eye on one specific sector.
Whati in the summertime. A group is travelling the Tlicho region to talk to residents about boosting their local economies. - NNSL file photo
"Tourism is absolutely massive so where do we start?" said Vickie Francisco, Tlicho Government's community services manager and community training and development implementation facilitator.
The group is travelling the Tlicho holding community consultations to discern how the people in each community want to expand their economy and what they will need to make it happen. For example, said Fransisco, if a community wanted to start offering snowmobile excursions for tourists, the plan aims help identify the safety courses and other training that would be required to make that business feasible.
The first community consultation was held in Wekweeti's new culture camp in December.
"What are the assets of Wekweeti?," asked Fransisco.
"We went through all the different buildings, we went through who owns what, how many jobs are there and who occupies those jobs, what's the unemployment rate . we started working through all that and we have a whole bunch of information, what are the gaps what are the barriers, what are the opportunities."
The working group is made up of the Tlicho Government's Chiefs Executive Council, Tlicho executive officer, training and development facilitator, economic development officers from Whati, Gameti and Wekweeti, as well as the four senior administrative officers, Tlicho Investment Corporation's CEO, the Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment's regional superintendent and the business development officer from Behchoko and one individual community member appointed by the local community's chief and council.
These people will travel to each community in the region to identify economic development opportunities and establish action plans, which are scheduled to be released in March.
Once plans are established, communities can approach potential funders.
"It becomes a community investment," said Fransisco.
"Then people from the region or outside funders can come in and say, 'Wow that looks great, things are in place.' They can put money there."
Wekweeti is excited to get rolling with this new initiative, said Adeline Football, community director for the Tlicho government.
"We're working towards tourism," she said. "We have a nine-hole golf course that is already ready to go."
The culture camp where the first meeting was held is about five kilometres from the community's airport and consists of a main meeting cabin with a kitchen, as well as four smaller cabins. Football said a heating system is scheduled to be installed this summer, as well as other improvements.
"When summer starts, that's when we get our summer students back in the community and we hire them to work over there," she said.
Football said the camp was built as a way to earn money for Wekweeti's youth centre and recreation departments.
"We don't get that much money to go on field trips and sports and stuff like that," she said.
"The whole idea was to build this camp and we'll rent it out for meetings or for workshops or for anything that could bring money for the youth centre and recreation."
Now, Football said the community is discussing expanding the operation to attract tourists to Wekweeti.
"We're hoping to promote a lot of our culture," Football said. That means finding ways to create an authentic experience for visitors, such as offering dog sled rides.
Teaching community members to train and operate dog teams is just one way to create tourism -related employment in Wekweeti, which only has a population of about 140 people, Football said.
Francisco said Wekweeti's culture camp is a great example of how the working group will help communities build on their assets.
"The infrastructure is being built, so now we need to put the other pieces in, the administrative, the training and all of that stuff to help them move forward," she said.
The group is scheduled to hold meetings in Gameti and Whati this week, with meetings to follow in Behchoko in February.
Another meeting is scheduled to take place in Yellowknife on Jan. 26 to update members and share results of the community consultations.
Francisco said though the meeting schedule is busy, the group is eager.
"We didn't want to be an advisory group, we wanted to be an action group," she said.