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After narwhal incident, Arctic Bay in Canada plans to revive tourism

CBC NewsEye on the Arctic
Michelle Valberg photo

Arctic Bay, an Inuit community in Canada’s northern Nunavut territory, is making plans to revive its tourism industry after a ban on filming at the floe edge caused at least one major tour operator to take its business elsewhere.

The community’s Hunters and Trappers Organization banned filming at the floe edge in May 2007 in response to a National Geographic article on the narwhal hunt that they felt portrayed the community in a negative light.

Clare Kines, Arctic Bay's economic development officer, said the community, which is located in the north of Baffin Island, has since agreed they want to see more visitors.

'Tourism's a good fit'

They hope to create a community tourism office that would allow several community members to act as guides or outfitters without having to create, market and advertise their own businesses.

"In terms of economic development up here, there's very little we have to offer for sale, other than our beauty, the people here, our culture and things along that line, so tourism's a good fit," Kines said.

Graham Dickson, president of tour company Arctic Kingdom, said when the ban was imposed, they diverted clients to other North Baffin communities. But for the past three years, they've been back.

"I think we've made great strides in bringing quite considerable numbers of people to somewhere that is very remote and very expensive to get to," he said. 

Narwhals, cliffs, icebergs

More tours highlighting Arctic Bay's stunning cliffs, narwhals and marine life are in the works. For one spectacular trip last spring, the company shipped in a hot air balloon for a Mexican couple and their four children.

"Then we hauled it out to the floe edge by snowmobile and kamotik (an Inuit sleigh), and then you wait for the right conditions and we did one beautiful flight by some twin towering icebergs that really has had some international acclaim."

Photos of the balloon hovering over the icebergs travelled around the world and were in contention for a National Geographic photo contest.

Dickson said this was the second time his company has used a hot air balloon in Arctic Bay, and it's something he'd like to offer to more customers.

This story is posted on Alaska Dispatch as part of Eye on the Arctic, a collaborative partnership between public and private circumpolar media organizations.