Aurora Village; Dark night lightening for Northwest Territories Indigenous Tourism operator

By WestJet | | 3 min read

When your life’s work is showcasing your Indigenous culture and the Aurora Borealis while spoiling travellers who come from far and wide, hunkering down and waiting out the pandemic is not an option.

“We went from welcoming 25,000 visitors a year to empty teepees, overnight,” said Mike Morin, Chief Executive Officer and part-owner of Aurora Village. “With more than 90 percent of guests coming in internationally, we’ve had to be nimble to keep the lights on.”

For the past 16 months, the team at Aurora turned to running their restaurant and marketing to locals whom they hoped would look close to home when wanting an adventure, it’s been tough but there are beginning to be bright spots. 

With some restrictions being lightened and vaccination rates across Canada rising, the Office of the Chief Public Health Officer (OCPHO) is allowing for remote tourism activities to resume in the NWT under certain conditions.

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“Canadians are getting eager to safely spread their wings and travel,” said Angela Avery, WestJet Executive Vice-President. “Vaccinations rates are increasing and along with WestJet’s rigorous health and hygiene protocols through our Safety Above All program, we are minimizing risk and making getting there safe for everyone.”

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Aurora Village is a winter and summer wonder and is located close enough to Yellowknife to be easily accessible while being outside of the city’s light pollution. With custom-made, heated outdoor viewing seats that swivel 360 degrees, guests can capture every angle of the Aurora Borealis in comfort.  The Morin family consulted Elders to develop the seats from which guests can view nature’s show and the property has five hills from which the night sky can be viewed. Guests can dine on traditional Indigenous cuisine like locally caught Great Slave Lake Whitefish or Slow Roasted Smoked Bison Prime Rib while a fire warms the guests’ private Teepee. From November to April, Aurora Village also offers snowshoeing, dog sledding and a giant snow slide among other tours.  

“Sharing these experiences, the stories of the land and our culture with our guests is what brings my family and employees joy,” continued Mike. “Seeing the dancing lights of the Aurora Borealis shining, pandemic or not, year-in and year-out, reminds me that our ancestors are looking out for us and we too will get through this. We’ve been around 20 years and we will be around for many more.”

All bookings can be made online at the Aurora Village website, or by calling (867) 669-0006. Please make sure to check all health and travel restrictions prior to booking.

WestJet and the Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada (ITAC) are providing nine, $10,000 grants to Indigenous tourism businesses across Canada that have been devastated by the shutdown of the tourism industry due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The grants were originally earmarked through the WestJet/ITAC strategic national partnership, signed in November 2019.

The recipients of these grants, including Aurora Village, were given the news in March 2021 and their reactions were captured in a new WestJet/ITAC video, WestJet & ITAC: supporting Indigenous tourism in Canada. The Indigenous tourism businesses that received the grants will be spotlighted on WestJet’s social channels and its newsroom over the next year.

WestJet currently flies three-times weekly between its largest hub in Calgary and Yellowknife.

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