Since CTC’s program launched last year, new markets have opened up and business has nearly doubled for this Northwest Territories master of mushing.
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Cry “havoc” and let slip the dogs of tourism: with apologies to Mr. Shakespeare, that’s what Beck’s Kennels in Yellowknife, NWT, has been doing since 1989. More than 150 huskies comprise one of the largest sled-dog kennels in Canada, situated in the country’s northernmost city.
What inspired you to get into the tourism business? And when did you start?
I’ve been in business for more than 25 years now. I was travelling in Europe and saw an interest in my hobby of mushing. I thought that combining that hobby with aurora viewing would be a good for visitors. We started small and have grown from there.
What’s the biggest challenge facing your enterprise today?
We’ve had to diversify, as initially we were mainly catering to Japanese visitors. Now they’re coming from across Asia. The challenge for tourism businesses in Yellowknife is the airport. We just don’t have the big charter flights coming here.
Tell us more about the experience you have that is featured in the Collection…
For Aurora Viewing by Dog Team, we have some cabins about 25 to 30 minutes outside the city. We take people to them by dog team. They can view the aurora borealis from the toboggans while lying warm in a sleeping bag. At the cabin, we give them snacks and then a dinner as they watch the lights from rest of the night. They then return to Yellowknife by dog team, as well as stopping along the way to take photos
How are you promoting your membership?
We’ve mainly been using our website. However, last winter a group came up from Brutus magazine in Japan. They spent four or five days here taking photos and we ended up on the cover, which was great.
What’s changed for your business as a result of being a member?
Our business has almost doubled. We have also done a lot of promotions prior to and since joining the SEC, so it’s hard to measure exactly at this point what had the greatest impact.
Are you getting visitors from any new international markets or greater numbers from existing ones?
We’re definitely seeing visitors from new markets such as China, South Korea and Australia. However, it’s really caught on closer to home, so we’ve had a lot more Canadians and Americans come here, too.
One year in, what do you think of the SEC program so far?
At first, I’ll admit I was a little sceptical. But once you’re in, it really works out well for businesses.
What’s been your biggest lesson this year as a tourism operator?
Learning the value of promotions and seeing what the impact of good ones can have on your business.
What are some of the challenges facing Canada’s tourism industry?
Transportation and air access above all. But I think the industry is on a comeback now, so things are looking up.
If you were to point to a big opportunity for Canada’s tourism industry, what might that look like?
Chinese travellers: they will make a big difference in the future as that trade is catching on fast. I went on a trade mission there five years ago to see what it’s all about. These visitors have already made an impact in the Territories.