There are arguably only two industries in Churchill: shipping and tourism, and both are under threat.
The economy over the past five years means tourism is down overall, said Mike Spence, Churchill’s mayor and owner of Wat’chee Lodge.
“Tourism has been down over the last couple of years due to the economy,” said Spence. “It’s understandable. People have less money to spend.”
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Churchill currently has a stable population of about 900 people, which doubles during bear season. However, Churchill’s population used to be much bigger.
“I grew up here when it had 6,000 people,” said Spence. “Tourism wasn’t even on the drawing board.”
The population dwindled, however, when the Canadian Armed Forces moved out, so citizens had to start looking for new ways to bring money back into the town.
“Tourism began to be kicked into gear because we had more bears coming through (the town) because the military wasn’t keeping them out.”
In the late 1980s, tourism exploded. Since then, the polar bear has become synonymous with Churchill and the town is proud of that.
“When you’re tagged with the moniker The Polar Bear Capital of the World, there’s a lot of pride in that,” said Spence.