Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, I was happy to hear Minister Antoine's statement on tourism marketing today. The Minister listed the factors that have been having a negative impact on the tourism industry in the Northwest Territories. There's been a great deal of focus on developing our non-renewable resources lately and that's right. It's the thing we need to do because this sector has been the biggest driver of growth in our economy of late.
Mr. Speaker, the tourism industry is also a huge contributor to the NWT economy and a major player in the NWT's GDP. Our hotels, restaurants and other small businesses rely on tourism dollars and, Mr. Speaker, guiding brings dollars into many northern communities. Unfortunately, the industry has struggled for many years for their fair share of government support. We are lucky to have the kind of natural wilderness that attracts tourists from all over the world. As the Minister noted in his statement today, in recent years there's been strong growth in the aurora market attracting Japanese visitors every year. The North's abundant wildlife also attracts many sport hunters and fisherman who pay premium dollars to participate in a true northern adventure.
Mr. Speaker, the continued trend towards eco-tourism and cultural tourism can only be good news for the Northwest Territories. We still have vast areas of unspoiled wilderness and our outfitters are ready and able to bring in visitors to experience the pristine wilderness of the NWT.
The strength and uniqueness of northern culture offers a remarkable experience for visitors to the Northwest Territories and provides employment for people in our smaller communities. Mr. Speaker, I was pleased to hear the Minister's announcement of the $500,000 campaign to market aurora tourism in Japan, but there needs to be even more support for the industry to survive the current downturn and to expand its product. The economic impact of tourism cannot be underestimated whether it's viewing the northern lights, rafting the Nahanni River or tracking caribou, our tourist visitors leave behind many dollars in our territory.
Mr. Speaker, it would be an important challenge for the 15th Assembly to see whether they can properly support the tourism industry so they can achieve its full potential. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.