Thank you, Mr. Speaker. When we talk about the value of tourism in the Northwest Territories, we often speak in terms of the dollars spent and the number of visitors tallied. In 2018-2019, the tourism industry showed record numbers in both of these categories, emphasizing once again that the approach to, and investments in, our Tourism 2020 Strategy are working. In fact, over the last five years, we have increased the number of visitors to our territory by 42 percent and boosted spending by 43 percent.
As we look to grow and diversify our territory's economy, these figures are important to our economic outlook. This growth in tourism means new tourism businesses and new service providers. With growth and diversification comes increased employment in our tourism sector and new revenue for our economy.
However, Mr. Speaker, the full value of tourism is so much more. In Inuvik, Alestine's eatery is a constant flurry of activity. Thanks to a regular and growing client base of summer road-tripping visitors, their business is thriving. What is unsaid, and sometimes unnoticed, is that Alestine's' success as a tourism destination means that Inuvik residents also have a restaurant to enjoy year-round.
In Tulita, campgrounds and walking trails have been built to accommodate tourists travelling the Mackenzie and Great Bear Rivers; however, local residents are also benefitting. Families are walking the groomed paths together, healthy eating workshops are being held in the picnic areas, and sharing circles are taking place in the campground teepee.
In Jean Marie River, local artist and bed-and-breakfast owner Lucy Simon shares the art of moose-hair tufting, a traditional skill that she is helping to keep alive thanks to the tourism demand for her product. As Ms. Simon shares her creative process with her guests, she is also teaching her skills to a new generation, preserving and sharing this time-honoured activity that was once passed on to her.
In Fort Smith, Northwestern Air Lease has seen a significant increase in their tourism-related bookings over the last four years. As a result, young athletes from the region are now benefiting from the company's success, thanks to discounted rates for teams and groups travelling to compete at sporting events.
In Yellowknife, busses and vans park outside Weaver and Devore to allow tourists to flock inside. While this fourth-generation family-run business was established almost exclusively to serve mining camps and fishers, tourists now line the aisles, as well, providing benefits and opportunities for yet another generation of staff and their families.
Mr. Speaker, while our government supports the tourism sector with investments in destination marketing, industry capacity building, and community readiness, we all play a part in its success. Our North is known for its spectacular landscapes and adventures, its strong Indigenous cultures and traditions, the midnight sun, and Aurora Borealis. Most of all, Mr. Speaker, our North is known for its people, their warm and welcoming spirit, and our world-renowned northern hospitality.
With the success of our tourism industry, however, there may be times when an influx of visitors to our territory puts a strain on our communities and their resources. More people wanting to visit our territory is the kind of challenge we want to have, though, and we will continue to work with communities to develop services and options for visitors across the Northwest Territories.
Mr. Speaker, in coming weeks, using the hashtag #ValueofTourismNWT, Northwest Territories residents will have the opportunity to read more about the projects that I have highlighted today. In doing so, I hope that we will all come to recognize that the value of tourism is much more than just economic. Yes, tourism continues to be an economic driver across the Northwest Territories, injecting over $200 million into our economy annually, but the value of tourism is also found in the infrastructure and services that we enjoy as residents. It is reflected in the preservation of our traditions and cultures, and it is implicit in the wellness of our communities and our families. Tourism highlights for the world what those of us living in the North already know, what a wonderful and magical place it is to live. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.