Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Call of the Wild

Canada’s North tries to make the world feel the call of the wild.
Attracting visitors from China, India and Brazil seen as a future growth area for the territory ‘s tourism industry.

So read the headline in the GLOBE AND MAIL published August 3, 2010 and written by a Josh Wingrove.

“Explore Canada’s Arctic!”

That was and perhaps still is the Northwest Territories (NWT) Government’s slogan in marketing its area in Canada’s Western Arctic: full of wildlife, wild spaces, Aboriginal people, and a place where one can still experience a sense of adventure.

As most may know, Canada’s Arctic is a huge part of Canada’s image with iconic images of polar bears, caribou herds, icebergs, Inukshuks, northern lights, igloos, cabins, camping, dog teams, arctic char, rivers, and the midnight sun. Still, very few people including Canadians have experienced Canada’s North.

As an Inuvialuit (Inuit) who grew up in Tuktoyaktuk, NWT, all the above images were an everyday experience and a way of life. And, as one who now lives in the Southern Canada, I do miss the “call of the wild.”

“There’s’ a lot of potential up here,” said Lisa Tesar, who runs a campground and organizes a summer festival in Yellowknife.”

Potential is one thing but reality is another.  Reality in experiencing the North has many challenges. Transportation costs are enormous: a return flight only from Calgary to Inuvik is in the neighborhood of $1800. The only ones benefiting in experiencing the Arctic are those employees who are on company expense thanks to Shell, ConocoPhillips, Imperial Oil, MGM Energy Corp and a few others. These companies and staff see oil and gas as the attraction while seeing dog-teams, northern lights, and caribou are residual effects. Those “outsiders” are the lucky ones: in the right place at the right time.

Right now, the NWT Legislature will consider “Tourism 2015, “ a marketing scheme that will hopefully boost the tourism industry targeting China, India, and Brazil.

“Getting the world to experience the North is, frankly, more lucrative, and probably in the long run a more sustainable model because that’s where the growth lines are,” says David Goldstein, president and CEO of the Tourism Industry Association of Canada.”

Growing up as a kid in the North, traveling by dog-team, seeing the northern lights, seeing polar bears, eating Arctic char, seeing thousands of caribou, building igloos, paddling the rivers, and experiencing the midnight sun was a way of life.  I guess I was living the "call of the wild." I did not have to pay a cent.

Still, as David Goldman says, “Tourism is a great opportunity, just because of where we are. It’s untouched, and people want to come here.”