One of Our Own: Tourism Development Officer Anne Kokko shares cruise ship experience

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Anne Kokko, Tourism Developer Officer for the Beaufort Delta, was working in the Ulukhaktok Hamlet Office when she heard, “We can see the boat!”

Kokko dropped what she was working on, jumped on an ATV and joined residents on a hillside to watch the Crystal Serenity as the giant cruise ship made its historic voyage towards Ulukhaktok.

“That was the moment that it all became very real. After two years of preparation, planning and meeting, it all came to fruition. We couldn’t have been more excited,” Kokko said.  

Kokko is a part of the Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment (ITI)’s regional office in Inuvik and was in Ulukhaktok to assist with the visit on August 26-27.  Preparations necessitated “all hands on deck” as community groups and regional organizations have come together supported, in large part, by strategic ITI programs and infrastructure investments.

That evening, approximately 50 Olokhaktomiut, including performers from both the Western and Centre Drum Dance groups, and local leadership, boarded the ship and performed in the ship’s 500-passenger theatre.

The following day visitors who came ashore were welcomed by elders in traditional garments and offered tea and bannock around a fire. Kokko was especially pleased to see Ulukhaktok students get a taste of the tourism industry as they greeted passengers – handing out maps and answering questions.

Twenty tour guides were stationed around the community to highlight various points of interest and answer questions.  Tours included a guided nature hike and a round of golf at Ulukhaktok’s famous tundra course. Guests were also introduced to the preparation of qiviut, print-making and musk-ox horn carving though a variety of demonstrations.

Passengers were able to purchase local art from the Ulukhaktok Arts Centre, which had relocated to the Community Hall to accommodate the large number of shoppers. Local artists were provided with tables and space at Helen Kalvak School where they could sell directly to the cruise ship passengers.  Meanwhile, a special mitt-making workshop was led by three local artists onboard the Crystal Serenity.

ITI is committed to advancing community economic development and diversification by promoting and supporting opportunities based on regional strengths. With increased access to Canada’s North and global interest in Aboriginal cultural tourism on the rise, the cruise ship market offers real potential for localized economic growth – not just in tourism, but in the traditional arts and harvesting sectors as well.

Ulukhaktok is already on the itinerary for 2017.

“It has been an exciting economic beginning” said Kokko.  “Everything went smoothly. Everyone was very gracious and excited about the visit.  We now know what to expect and what event infrastructure we need to develop. We can build for next year.”

An economic impact report will be developed by the Inuvialuit Community Economic Development Organization for both the Crystal Serenity and Quark Expeditions cruise ship which visited Sachs Harbour on September 13.

But, the best part of the experience?  For Kokko it was “the incredible collaboration within the community.”