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NWT paid $115,000 for visitors centre in Yukon
GNWT: Dawson City location brings tourists up Dempster

Shane Magee
Northern News Services
Wednesday, May 24, 2017

The GNWT paid $115,000 to run a seasonal visitors centre in Dawson City, Yukon last year, according to figures released Friday by the Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment.

That compares to $161,000 in operations funding the department provided to the Northern Frontier Visitors Association in Yellowknife as the group begged for further government support.

The Northern Frontier Visitors Centre closed last week and laid off two full-time staff members because its building was deemed unsafe due to structural issues.

Dawson City is near the start of the Dempster Highway, running several hundred kilometres through the Yukon to the Northwest Territories.

The Dawson City centre, opened in 1993, has three seasonal staff and is across the street from a larger, Yukon-run visitors information centre.

Drew Williams, a spokesperson for Industry, Tourism and Investment, stated the Yukon has no incentive to promote the NWT at its visitors centre, let alone the Beaufort Delta region.

"Having an NWT visitor's centre in Dawson City has enabled us to take advantage of the marketing the Yukon does for rubber tire and RV travellers and steer some of them up the Dempster," he stated.

"We believe that a significant amount of the traffic we see on the Dempster is as a result of the Dawson centre promoting the wilderness drive. Of the visitation that we have at the Dawson centre normally 50 per cent make the venture up the Dempster."

According to the figures provided by the GNWT, the Dawson City visitors centre will get $102,000 in the 2017-18 fiscal year.

Kam Lake MLA Kieron Testart said he sees the centre as an extension of the GNWT's effort to attract visitors.

"I think it's a worthwhile investment but that being said I think more needs to be done in Yellowknife," he said.

The Dempster Delta Visitors Centre saw 8,334 visitors last year.

More than 50,000 visitors were welcomed at the Northern Frontier Visitors Centre near Frame Lake last year, up 400 per cent over a decade and more than any of the other centres combined last year.

For years the non-profit Northern Frontier Visitors Association, which owns and runs the centre, has called on the GNWT and city government to provide it with more funding.

The association largely relied on sales of merchandise and renting space in its now-closed building to make enough money to survive.

Last year the city provided the association $86,723 and is providing an extra $17,000 this year.

"We've been lobbying with the government for years and years and years to get support," said board member Ian Henderson at the association's annual general meeting on May 4.

"The city won't even sweep our sidewalks. They won't help us with our garbage removal."

Cathie Bolstad, executive director of NWT Tourism, echoed the same sentiment at the same meeting.

"Without government support, we're up against a brick wall," she said.

With the city's only visitor information centre now closed, the GNWT has offered a small space inside the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre for some visitor information functions.

Kyle Thomas, president of the Northern Frontier Visitors Association, stated Tuesday the board unanimously agreed to move to the museum space.

Thomas stated the Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment has sped up its quarterly payment to the association from July 1 in order to get money to the group sooner.

The contract between the GNWT and association for the museum space had not been signed as of yesterday.

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