NNSL Photo/Graphic

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Chinese tourists thrilled to visit
Large delegation discovers the Northern experience

Mark Rieder
Northern News Services
Thursday, August 13, 2015

A group of almost 60 Chinese tourists, tour operators and media received a warm welcome to Inuvik during a whirlwind trip on Aug. 9.

NNSL photo/graphic

Visitors from China, members of the community and the Inuvik Drummers and Dancers celebrate their newfound friendship on the dancefloor at Ingamo Hall Aug. 9. - Mark Rieder/NNSL photo

The delegation, which included a film crew preparing a promotional video for one of China's airlines, made the visit to get a taste of what their fellow countrymen can expect.

"Inuvik most definitely will be a really good destination for the Chinese people. Tourists will come here for three main reasons. First of all, they will drive up here.

It will be a good experience for them to drive the Dempster Highway because we don't have anything like that in China. Driving in a rural area is really popular in China these days," said tour leader Shi Jian Liang through an interpreter.

He said the Northern life and atmosphere, and especially the aboriginal culture, are what interests Chinese tourists the most.

Liang pointed out that there is also an almost extreme aspect that the region offers.

"Inuvik is a challenging place, the road is challenging, the weather is challenging. Tourists will want to challenge themselves, want to experience more dramatic change of cultures. It will be perfect for those people who want excitement," Liang said.

The aspect of cultural immersion tourism is also on the list of things to do for the Chinese tourist.

"Winter time will be a really good time for the tourists to come. For example, dog sledding will be a nice experience. If any of the First Nation or Inuvialuit people would invite them into a traditional tent or something like that, it will be a really good experience for them," Liang said.

Jackie Challis, economic development and tourism manager for the town, said this visit is a boost for Inuvik being a destination for tourists.

"We recognized the value of having approved destination status a number of years ago. China is a growing travelling market," Challis said.

"The thing that I was shocked to see was the range in ages that we had here. We had families, we had younger people, we had older couples. It was very much a mixed group, it wasn't one segment that we could say, 'This is what a Chinese tourist is.' It was interesting to see."

Challis agreed that the type of experience the Chinese tourists want can be easily provided here.

"I definitely think that cultural immersion tourism - authentic and delivered by local people, local aboriginal operators - is really important. That cultural component is what makes the North what it is," she said.

"That kind of tourism fits better with smaller groups. Longer stays, smaller groups, higher spend - compared to larger numbers, shorter stays, lower spend."

But there also has to be some planning involved to ensure that experience is provided properly.

"What we have to think about is what kind of experience do we want to deliver to the guests, and what kind of experience are the guests looking for," Challis said.

"If tourism is going to work, whether it's here in Inuvik or anywhere in the Western Arctic region, it's going to have to come from a community-based approach."

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