The NWT could see thousands of visitors travelling to remote tourism destinations this summer as a result of the recent rule changes.
While the GNWT hasn’t kept track in previous years of the exact number of people visiting remote tourism destinations, a spokesperson for the Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment said in an email the territorial government did have numbers on the number of hunting and fishing licenses that had been bought by domestic travellers in previous years.
In 2018-19, 135 hunters travellers from outside the territory bought licenses, and in 2019-20 there were 120 hunting licenses sold to domestic travellers.
In 2018-19, there were around 3,500 fishers who travelled to the NWT from outside the territory and around 3,400 in 2019-20 – but those numbers include visitors who may have travelled to communities for fishing.
“The Office of the Chief Public Health Officer (OCPHO) will be aware of the number of tourists that are in the NWT at any given time,” added the ITI spokesperson. “These out-of-territory clients will be in remote locations and because of the remote nature of those operations they will have no, or very minimal, contact with NWT residents and communities during their stay.”
The GNWT announced the changes last week, to give operators enough time to prepare, according to NWT’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Kami Kandola.
Tourism operators will have to submit plans to the CPHO’s office, 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 Kandola.
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.
Remote tourism operations won’t begin until the summer, according to the ITI spokesperson. Travellers will also each have to submit their isolation plans, and groups of travellers will be in small cohorts spread throughout the territory, added the tourism department.
By the summertime, Kandola said she expects the risk of importing COVID-19 will be lower.
“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.”
ITI did not respond in time for publication to requests for comment on how many travellers they expected to see this year.