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Council OKs takeover of visitor services
City to officially take on role as of Oct. 1

Jessica Davey-Quantick
Northern News Services
Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Council has voted unanimously to take over visitor services from Oct. 1 until March 31.

The new temporary visitor's centre will be located in the large boardroom in the lower level of city hall. Council approved the decision at Monday evening's council meeting.

City administrator Sheila Bassi-Kellett said this is only a temporary solution and visitor services will hopefully go into a more accessible location as of April.

"Ideally, it's not going to be operated out of the basement of city hall after March 31, 2018," she told council.

The short-term partnership between the city and the GNWT fills a potential gap left after the Northern Frontier Visitor's Association announced it would be closing at the end of the month. Although the official decision won't be made until after its members meet and vote on Oct. 2, the city announcement makes it a virtual fait accompli. In April, the association was forced to move out of the Northern Frontier Visitors Centre after the structure became uninhabitable. The association has since been providing tourism services out of a desk at the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre.

After March 31, the city plans to work with the GNWT to come up with a longer term plan to deliver visitor services.

The Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment has committed approximately $80,000 to keep tourism services going through March, according to department spokesperson Drew Williams. Bassi-Kellett told council the city will also be providing funds, but the exact figure was unavailable by press time.

The amount that will be invested - by the city or the GNWT - after March 31 is up in the air.

"The GNWT has been notorious for under-funding municipalities and the City of Yellowknife has taken on a lot of responsibilities that are not within our direct mandate," said Coun. Niels Konge. "So it's certainly nice that we didn't get short changed on this one as well."

He added he hopes council will have the opportunity to review the terms of the partnership going forward after March 31.

Bassi-Kellett stated starting in April, the city would look for an "external provider" to deliver tourist services, with the city overseeing the project and providing "high-level direction."

What that will mean for visitors services in the city is still uncertain. City officials did not respond to questions about whether former Northern Frontier Visitor Association staff would be considered for the external provider spots.

"At this point, the city does not know the model that will be used to provide visitor services after March 31," stated city spokesperson Richard McIntosh in an email. "We will work with government and community partners to develop a model."

Drew Williams isn't even sure if the long-term model of visitor's services will include a physical space at all.

"Does it have to be a independent location where we sell crafts and stuff or could it be, for instance ... a website that has mobile downloads and stuff like that?" he said.

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