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Northwest Territories sets out strict rules for resumption of remote tourism

Friday, April 23, 2021 @ 1:18 PM | By John Schofield

In an early sign of its reawakening economy, the Northwest Territories’ chief public health officer, Dr. Kami Kandola, has given the green light to tourism operators in remote areas to host clients from outside the territory under strict guidelines this summer.

Kandola prohibited all travel into the territory, with limited exceptions, at the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020.

Under the plan, operators are required to submit a “remote tourism operators COVID-19 operations plan” to the office of the chief public health officer, according to an April 21 news release issued by the government of the Northwest Territories. Out-of-territory tourists would spend the regular period of self-isolation required by the government at the tourism facility.

The operations plan must detail how the licensed remote tourism operator will reduce the risk of COVID-19 being introduced and transmitted within the N.W.T. and must include information on the transportation of workers and clients in and out of remote locations, on site isolation ability, medical capacity and emergency transfer capabilities, how a COVID-19 case would be managed, and other mitigation plans for COVID-19-related risks. The operations plan will have to comply with existing public health measures, according to the news release.

“To ensure out-of-territory visitors can self-isolate while N.W.T. visitors and residents remain safe,” the release said, “these tourism operators must demonstrate that they can carry out business with no, or very minimal, contact between travellers and N.W.T. residents who are not employees of the remote tourism operation.”

 Northwest Territories Premier Caroline Cochrane

Northwest Territories Premier Caroline Cochrane

Northwest Territories Premier Caroline Cochrane said the measure is intended to help spur the territory’s economic and social recovery.

“This is especially important for areas hardest hit by the pandemic, like the tourism sector,” she said in the release. “Today is one step forward in what we hope will be a number of changes in the coming months.”

Travellers to the Northwest Territories can choose from among roughly 60 remote tourism operators, who offer fully self-contained tour experiences. During their trips, clients, staff and workers do not have to rely on commercial accommodation or food services within an N.W.T. community, except while in transit. Scheduled overnight layovers in transit only take place in Yellowknife, Hay River, Inuvik, Fort Smith, Fort Simpson and Norman Wells.

“Tourism in the Northwest Territories was the first industry affected by COVID-19 and has been the hardest hit,” said Harold Grinde, chairperson of the Northwest Territories Tourism board of directors. “We are grateful to our partners at the GNWT, the Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment, the Office of the Chief Public Health Officer, and particularly the COVID Secretariat, for their assistance in finding a way to resume some tourism activities while protecting the health of the residents of the NWT.”

As of April 22, the Northwest Territories reported three active cases of COVID-19 among its population of 41,790 residents. Almost half of the population — 19,271 people — have received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine. The City of Yellowknife remains under a state of emergency, which has been extended to May 6.

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