Remote tourism operators will be able to welcome guests from outside of the territory this summer.
The GNWT announced the change now to allow operators to submit a Remote Tourism Operators COVID-19 Operations Plan.
Tourism operators will have to ensure out-of-territory travellers can isolate in remote locations outside of any NWT communities and that travellers have medical insurance. This makes allowing tourists from outside the territory low-risk, according to NWT’s Chief Public Health Officer, Dr. Kami Kandola.
Travellers are allowed to make overnight layovers in a community, so long as it is one of the six hub communities — Yellowknife, Hay River, Inuvik, Fort Smith, Fort Simpson or Norman Wells.
There are approximately 60 remote tourism operators in the NWT. There are 150 tourism operators in the territory, according to Donna Lee Demarcke, Chief Executive Officer of NWT Tourism.
The GNWT defines a remote tourism operator as one who can provide services without clients or staff having to rely on commercial accommodation or food services within an NWT community, except while in transit.
This announcement comes as the third wave continues to see the number of COVID-19 cases rise in southern Canada. But Kandola says the announcement is coming now to allow tourism operators to submit their plans and prepare for the tourism season.
She added by the time the summer arrives and tourism usually picks up, the risk of tourists spreading the virus will be lower.
“Right now, the federal government has travel restrictions internationally and with the US. So travellers that will be coming in will be coming domestically, unless those are lifted,” she said. “What I know with the vaccine supply is that we anticipate that everyone in the rest of Canada should be offered at least one dose of the vaccine before June 30.”
“So as the remote tourism operators plan their planning for the summer and I anticipate at that time, the third wave will be bent, we will have a high vaccine rollout, and the risks of introduction will actually be much less than right now.”
The GNWT ran a pilot project with a couple of tourism operators to see how these changes could be implemented and has been running workshops to inform tourism operators about the requirements they will have to meet.
Kandola said easing of restrictions in communities would be looked at as the third wave starts to decline and the vaccine rate in the rest of Canada increases.