The Government of Nunavut (GN) is hoping the travel bubble between Nunavut and the Northwest Territories (NWT) will provide both economic and social advantages for Nunavummiut.
Besides trade, Finance Minister George Hickes said he hopes tourism opportunities will open up for both territories.
Although it is “pretty hard to quantify” the benefits of the travel bubble presently, Hickes said he has heard some “very positive feedback” from people.
“People may be cancelling their summer holidays to go south, but they’re able to come here and visit family,” said the minister.
Arviat North-Whale Cove MLA John Main agrees the travel bubble is a good idea, but it will not necessarily benefit all regions within Nunavut equally.
He believes residents of Kitikmeot region specifically may benefit from the travel bubble, but it is less of an attraction for those in the Kivalliq region.
Although some families connections may be made easier with the bubble, it is the cost of travel for Kivalliaq residents that is “the biggest” issue, explained Main.
“I expect there won’t be a ton of travel to or from the NWT due to the cost of plane tickets,” he said.
“If travel costs were lower or significant discounts were on offer, I could see higher numbers of travellers to and from the NWT using the bubble.”
The cost of flights is also a concern for Mark Lewandoski, the general manager of Arctic Bay Adventures, who lives in the Qikiqtaaluk region.
“The cost of flights in and out of Arctic Bay to NWT are basically way over the reach of the majority of the community members,” said Lewandoski.
“Costs in the thousands of dollars makes this travel opening mute for our community members going out.”
According to Lewandoski the travel bubble “does not do much” for Arctic Bay. “(The) only positive thing I can think of is some professional services can come into town … if this is arranged via NWT only,” he said.
However, based on his experience, Lewandoski said he is uncertain how many professionals would travel to Arctic Bay from NWT since most of the traffic usually comes from Eastern Canada and Ottawa.
Lewandoski said the travel bubble has “zero impacts” on his arctic adventure tourism business.
“We may see a little blip of activity but on a scale of one to 10, with 10 being the best, I would say it would rank the travel bubble importance/effectiveness for economy as a one or one-and-a-half.”
Main believes there is “significant potential for tourism” in his constituency, but it is yet to be developed.
For the travel bubble to attract more tourists within his constituency, it needs to be “paired with funding injections and support for tourism operators in Arivat and Whale Cove,” said the MLA.
“We already have some sport fishing, hunting and eco-tourism products on offer, but government supports are essential to incubate and cultivate tourism businesses while they are young.”