Since the early 1980s several Inuit communities in Canada’s Baffin region have turned to nature—and culture-based tourism as a source of much needed income and employment (Anderson 1991; Hamley 1991; Hinch and Swinnerton 1993). Driven in large part by the continued marketing efforts of the Government of the Northwest Territories (Hamburg and Monteith 1988; GNWT 1991, 1993), Tourism Canada (ISTC 1990), a range of southern tour operators and the communities themselves, visitor numbers have more than doubled since the early 1980s, reaching approximately 3,000 by the mid-1990s (GNWT 1992; Milne et al. 1997).
In this chapter we examine how tourism spaces in this region of Canada’s eastern Arctic have been constructed. We begin by providing a brief review of some of the key themes to have emerged in the growing literature on the transformation of landscapes into tourist places by promotional agencies, the tourism industry and visitors themselves. We also stress that if we are to understand the construction of tourist landscapes in the Baffin region we must look beyond these “outside” actors, and also pay attention to the evolving ability of “insiders” (local communities and residents) to shape tourism spaces.
Our empirical analysis begins with an overview of the various external forces that have helped to shape tourist perceptions of the region. We examine some of the “myths” that have helped to shape Canadians’ broad conception of the Arctic, focusing in particular on the role of film, radio and literature. We then move on to examine how these images have been perpetuated (and in some cases subverted) by the packaging and promotion conducted by Southern tour operators, and various levels of government.
A review of tourist perceptions of, and reactions to, their travel experiences (drawn from two visitor surveys conducted in 1992 and 1993) reveals, in very