The Ptarmigan Inn saw more business between Thursday, May 9, and Sunday, May 12, than it did in the entire month of January this year.
“We were at full capacity, so that’s all 42 rooms filled,” the Ptarmigan’s marketing co-ordinator Eric Myers told The Hub. “This is a big boost to the town and it really showcases the services we can offer.”
Hay River’s population increased by a few hundred over that weekend, as delegates, government officials and observers were in town to attend the NWT Association of Communities’ (NWTAC) annual general meeting.
Hay River’s economic co-ordinator Jordan Stackhouse estimated that overall between $125,000 and $150,000 was spent in town by participants in the conference.
“It was great to have so many people in town for the weekend,” he said. “I think we really showed that we are up to the task of hosting events like this.”
Myers was keen to point out that the money spent in town was only part of what made the weekend a success, noting many of the visitors were community and territorial leaders who could help drive economic development if they saw Hay River was ready for it.
“It shows them that we’re that much more viable in terms of development,” he said. “Maybe they’ll want to do more business here in the future or think of us first for events.”
Although Janet-Marie Fizer, the president of the Hay River Chamber of Commerce, was certainly pleased to see the increased number of people in town, she was cautious about saying the conference had benefited all local businesses.
“We’re always happy to see them come to the hotels,” she said. “But it would have been nice to see something where more businesses could have been featured.”
When Hay River last hosted the Association of Communities’ AGM three years ago, Fizer said there had been a trade show component, but many businesses involved had not found it to be beneficial as the audience was limited to people on coffee and lunch breaks. This year, the chamber created a coupon booklet similar to the one it devised to draw ice-road related business in the winter.
However, Fizer said the success of the coupons won’t be known until the next chamber meeting when businesses bring in what they collected and the numbers are tallied.
While Hay River Mayor Andrew Cassidy was pleased with the economic results of this month’s conference, he also saw it as a stepping-stone to further growth in the future.
“We put a bit of extra effort into it to demonstrate that we have the capacity to host events like this,” Cassidy said. “Hay River hasn’t really had that role, and we want to let the North know that we have the capacity, we have the catering services and the facilities to make it happen. We want people to know that we’re open for business and that we can handle it.”
— Sarah Ladik