‘Thank goodness,’ says tour operator as Northwest Territories prepare to reopen to tourism on March 1

Tour operators were pleased to learn on Friday that the NWT will be open to tourists starting March 1 — regardless of vaccination status — after nearly two years of COVID-19 travel restrictions.

The government made the announcement on February 11 in a press release.

All travelers will still be required to submit a self-isolation plan “which will determine post-travel entry requirements, such as self-isolation if necessary,” the statement said.

The government has said this will bring visitor travel requirements in line with requirements for NWT residents. Visitors will also need to follow current public health orders, such as mandatory masking and gathering limits.

An aerial view of Yellow Dog Lodge, about 50 kilometers north of Yellowknife. (Submitted by Gordon Gin)

The statement said the announcement is being made now, in anticipation of a downward trend in COVID-19 cases in the territory, to give the tourism industry time to prepare.

” My answer ? Thank God ! said Gordon Gin, who runs Yellow Dog Lodge in Yellowknife. “Thank you is the big word of the day.

“But on a sad note, this should have happened months ago as we have lost bookings which we cannot recover.”

Gin previously said he lost at least one $55,000 reservation because he couldn’t guarantee customers it would be open this summer.

He fears some customers are still wary of booking until more restrictions are lifted,

“Me as an owner, I have to be a little more patient,” he said. However, my patience is running out, isn’t it?”

Don’t be a “Negative Nancy”

Jimmy Kalinek runs Only Way Outfitting in Inuvik.

For Kalinek’s company, discovering the opening now is still a short time.

“My season starts here in March, April, May,” he said.

Jimmy Kalinek, right, retrieving an anchorage for a beluga whale research project with Gerard Chicksi and Norman Day. Kalinek says that kind of work has kept her business afloat during the pandemic. (Submitted by the Joint Inuvialuit Regional Settlement Secretariat)

Kalinek is currently working on plans for an outpost camp for tourists this spring, under the government’s exemption for remote tour operators, limit contact between his home community and tourists.

“It’s kind of not the best way to show the Northwest Territories, but you take what you can and make the most of it, I guess,” he said.

Kalinek’s business was relatively new when the pandemic started, so he said he already had a backup plan in place when COVID-19 hit.

He worked on science projects, taking on some of the work that government and non-government employees couldn’t do in the North during the pandemic.

Now that things are opening up, Kalinek said he doesn’t want to be a “negative Nancy” but is proceeding with caution, due to the possibility of future variants and outbreaks.

“So it’s always going to be in the back of our heads, you know? For me, it’s keeping my community safe before anything else.”

File self-isolation plan early

The government is asking travelers to expect delays in processing self-isolation plans and asking people to apply for a plan seven to 10 days before they plan to enter the territory.

Minister of Industry, Tourism and Investment Caroline Wawzonek. (Mario De Ciccio/Radio-Canada)

Dr. André Corriveau, Deputy Chief Medical Officer of Health, said in the press release that the government wants to “normalize things like wearing a mask, staying home when sick and other measures that have been proven to do a difference in protecting the vulnerable” as the territory prepares to lift its broad public health mandate.

“We look forward to seeing NWT businesses and operators finally welcome visitors back and show them how truly spectacular our land is,” said Caroline Wawzonek, Minister of Industry, Tourism and Investment. , in the same press release.