Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Iqaluit September 11, 2017 - 8:00 am

Hotel room shortage in Nunavut’s capital adds strain to busy fall season

"We do have people calling now to try and register for the trade show and there are no hotels”

STEVE DUCHARME
When the former Hotel Arctic was transformed into a student residence for Nunavut Arctic College this month, Iqaluit lost 76 hotel rooms, creating big problems for people visiting the community for political and business events. (PHOTO BY STEVE DUCHARME)
When the former Hotel Arctic was transformed into a student residence for Nunavut Arctic College this month, Iqaluit lost 76 hotel rooms, creating big problems for people visiting the community for political and business events. (PHOTO BY STEVE DUCHARME)

As Iqaluit moves into another busy season of conferences, meetings and the final sitting of the current legislature, fall visitors might face a rude awakening when they make travel plans: there’s nowhere to sleep.

Spokespeople from two of Nunavut’s largest events—the Nunavut Trade Show and the Nunavut Mining Symposium—told Nunatsiaq News that losing the city’s 76-room Hotel Arctic this summer has forced both events to help participants scramble for accommodations.

While both events directly book several rooms for delegates and VIPs, most regular participants will have to find their own places to stay when they come to town.

“It certainly is a problem for us. We do have people calling now to try and register for the trade show and there are no hotels,” said Chris West, the executive director of the Baffin Regional Chamber of Commerce, which organizes the Nunavut Trade Show each year in September.

West said the BRCC is fielding calls from concerned participants on a daily basis ahead of Sept. 19, when the trade show is scheduled to get underway.

Many have been given contact information for local bed and breakfasts, but those too are quickly filling up.

“We certainly need another facility,” West said.

Qikiqtaaluk Properties bought the Hotel Arctic this past summer and is leasing the building to Nunavut Arctic College.

Jen Hayward, the co-organizer for the Nunavut Mining Symposium, said the loss of the Hotel Arctic will have “a huge impact.”

“It is a bigger concern from the mining symposium’s perspective that, all of a sudden, we have 76 less rooms that we can potentially house delegates at,” she said.

The Nunavut Mining Symposium isn’t scheduled until April 2018, but organizers have already begun planning for a shortage of hotel rooms.

“It obviously will have an impact on the number of participants that can ultimately come.”

According to conference figures, these two events bring in about $1.3 million in economic activity—and they claim that’s a conservative estimate.

Two new Iqaluit hotels are in the planning stages: one near the Qikiqtani General Hospital and another on Inuit-owned lands on Federal Road, but no completion dates have been announced yet.

Room shortage also at new college residence

The Hotel Arctic was sold for $14.9 million at the end of July to Qikiqtaaluk Properties Inc., a subsidiary of the Qikiqtaaluk Corp., which is the business arm of the Qikiqtani Inuit Association.

The building is currently being renovated into a student residence and campus for Nunavut Arctic College, but a short construction window and an ongoing legal squabble with the building’s former restaurant has caused a shortage of rooms for students.

The college’s manager of policy and planning, Richard Paton, said Sept. 7 that students have had to double up in five rooms meant for single occupancy.

Three families have also been placed into three single-occupancy rooms, after they declined an offer from the college to move temporarily to hotel rooms.

“It hasn’t been an uncommon practice of the college to, when needed, have students double up,” he said.

Paton said he expects all of these issues to be resolved by Sept. 11 at the latest, when Nunavut Arctic College officially receives the building from Qikiqtaaluk Properties.

Light construction will continue at the new residence over the coming weeks, but security systems have already been installed ahead of the students’ arrival, Paton said.

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