In a continued effort to increase tourism in the hub, the municipality is looking to access territorial dollars to expand the current visitor information centre in the coming years.
“I don’t think it’s been utilized to its full potential,” said Mayor Andrew Cassidy. “It hasn’t been as widely accessed as it could have been and we’re hoping that by adding some features, we can draw in more people and add some value to the experience.”
Those features would include a type of gallery to display the works of local artists, and possibly a small souvenir shop, though Cassidy was careful to note he did not want the centre to compete with existing stores on that front. Furthermore, the top floor of the centre would be renovated and used as extra office space for the municipality.
The Community Tourism Infrastructure Fund is a pot of money from the territorial Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment (ITI) for local government and non-profits to improve their tourism offerings. It would see the GNWT contribute a maximum of $50,000 towards the project, a sum to be matched by the municipality.
Cassidy said ITI is keen to develop the sector in the South Slave in particular as it serves as a gateway to rubber-tire tourists in the summer.
Hay River serves as the first point of contact for many of those motorists and the community should be able to make better use of that status, said Cassidy.
“We want to add focus to the regional character of Hay River,” he said.
“We’re the first point of contact for the South Slave and the Northwest Territories as a whole. We want to keep people in the territory as long as possible, encourage them to stay and experience all that we have to offer… it’s more than a weekend trip.”
When the application for funding came up for discussion at town council last week, it was even suggested that if a position within the municipal administration were to be housed in a renovated building, there would be potential for the centre to stay open all winter. The other visitor’s centres in the South Slave close during the winter.
“This would be huge for our community,” said deputy mayor Donna Lee Jungkind, adding that having the only centre open through the winter in the South Slave would be a serious step toward proving the town’s status as a regional centre.
The application was due for April 1 and Cassidy said administration should hear back soon. If the funding comes through, he hopes to see construction underway this summer.