Mr. Speaker, later today, I will table Tourism 2025: Roadmap to Recovery. It is the new five-year plan for the future growth of tourism in the Northwest Territories. It was originally conceived as a strategy that would build upon the success of Tourism 2010, Tourism 2015, and Tourism 2020. Each of these strategies set a goal for visitor spending, and every one of them exceeded their goal, with total visitor spending estimated to have risen from $130 million during the Tourism 2010 period up to an estimated $210.1 million during the time of Tourism 2020. The success of Tourism 2020 was in spite of the severe decline that began in the last part of the strategy, when COVID-19 arrived in the spring of 2020.
Mr. Speaker, Tourism 2025 is a strategy for the future. It does not change the reality that, until visitors return to the Northwest Territories, economic relief measures are still needed. The goal for Tourism 2025 has shifted from one of continued growth to achieving recovery, with an ambitious goal to be back to the high numbers seen in 2018-2019 for both visitor numbers and visitor spend. To achieve this in the medium term, we need our industry to survive the pandemic, so before I speak further about Tourism 2025, let me briefly note some of the short-term efforts being made.
We continue to work with the Government of Canada and Northwest Territories Tourism to find ways to meet the immediate needs of NWT tourism businesses and the industry as a whole. Federal Northern Business Relief and Regional Relief and Recovery Funds have been available to help tourism businesses cover operational costs. For those tourism businesses that exhausted this funding, the Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment filled the gap.
Thanks to our partnership with Canada's Northern Economic Development Agency, we have provided opportunities for tourism businesses to invest in, upgrade, or pivot their operations and services. Three million dollars is being invested in 99 tourism initiatives across the territory under the Growth and Recovery by Investing in Tourism, or GRIT, Fund. Together with Northwest Territories Tourism, we invested in training initiatives like digital boot camps for tourism businesses to learn and upgrade their online marketing skills. The promotion of staycations allowed tourism businesses to deliver their products to a new and overwhelmingly supportive local market. Our campaigns did more than generate some much-needed revenue; it awakened us as Northerners collectively to be better customers and ambassadors of our very own tourism product.
Just as the pandemic is not over, neither are the GNWT's efforts to continue finding opportunities to partner with other funders to maximize funding and to identify gaps in funding programs that we can help fill. The department conducted industry engagements in preparation for Tourism 2025 twice, first in the fall of 2019, but then again in the spring of 2020, in order to better understand the impact of the pandemic on the industry and to determine whether there was a shift in needs, opportunities, or priorities. What we learned may be surprising to some. While the reasons behind their priorities may have changed, the fundamental needs of the industry have not. The message from the tourism industry was clear and direct; government investment is needed, more now than ever, in tourism infrastructure, industry and product development, communication, and market research. From that engagement with stakeholders came four strategic priorities for Tourism 2025. They are:
- Invest in infrastructure, enhancements to products and services, and development of new products and services;
- Build capacity among operators and tourism staff through training and mentorship;
- Engage with tourism stakeholders, through enhanced communications and marketing efforts; and
- Gather and report key data, information, and insights to help guide and evaluate investments.
The Tourism 2025 strategy includes specific activities under each strategic priority and the anticipated outcomes of that work.
Mr. Speaker, the world wants to come to the Northwest Territories. The marketing efforts of Northwest Territories Tourism, our destination marketing organization, won international awards for their marketing efforts focused on telling the stories of the Northwest Territories. Yellowknife, as a gateway to all of the Northwest Territories, was named as one of National Geographic's 2021 places to visit. That designation is not tied to any single moment in time, and it will not be lost in light of the tourism delays imposed by COVID-19. Being a place to go is tied to the spectacular stories that we have to tell.
It will take time and it will take work, but we will recover. Our borders will open, and the Northwest Territories will once again take its place as a spectacular tourism destination. When we get there, and we will, Tourism 2025: Roadmap to Recovery will be in place to guide and grow our industry into the future. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.