The Klondike continues to draw visitors from near and far

DAWSON CITY Pat and Dianne Brooks have their fingers on the pulse of tourism in Dawson, and by their account — and several others — the…

DAWSON CITY

Pat and Dianne Brooks have their fingers on the pulse of tourism in Dawson, and by their account — and several others — the industry is healthy in the Klondike town.

The Brooks’ Gold Rush Campground for RVs sits in the centre of Dawson. A prime destination for visitors, it also serves as a good indicator of the pace of the town’s tourist traffic.

The number of sites occupied in a day in May, June and July is up four per cent compared to last year, and visitors are staying an average of three days.

And there’s a noticeable difference in nationality.

“We’re seeing more Canadians coming as opposed to Americans,” said Pat in an interview with the News.

“They’ve always looked to Alaska as the last frontier and have included Dawson up or on the way back. But more and more Canadians are discovering us.”

After buying the campground in 2002, the couple has also seen many repeat visitors from overseas.

“Those are the people that tend to return time and time again,” said Pat. “It might be two years or three years later, but they’ve really fallen in love with the North.”

Elsewhere in Dawson, businesses and tourists stops indicate numbers are strong.

A main destination for tourists, the Danoja Zho Cultural Centre has seen a significant increase in visits compared to 2006, said Freda Roberts, program co-ordinator.

In May, 600 people stopped at the centre; 3,500 people stopped in June and another 2,600 in July, increasing the total number of visits by 25 per cent over last year.

Walk-ins, shoppers and tours have all increased the numbers, said Roberts.

She tries to keep a constant rotation of exhibits and performances to bring people back for multiple visits, she said.

But there are still some unknowns.

“I don’t know what I’m doing right, but I better keep doing it,” said Roberts, adding that Dawson itself is the attraction for tourists.

“Everything’s different in Dawson,” said Roberts. “It’s the end of the road. You either go to Alaska or turn around. You can pass through Whitehorse. Dawson is a must-stop place. It’s really unique.”

Feedback from businesses and tourism centres in Dawson has been positive this year, said Klondike Visitors Association marketing manager Bill Holmes.

“The overall commentary from operators is that they are fairly happy with the season so far,” said Holmes.

“Usually, by this point in the year, people have a good idea of where their businesses are.

“If there was anything going south, I would have heard it by now and we’re hearing some very positive feedback.”

More than 11 per cent fewer private vehicles, including RVs and motor homes, crossed the border into the Yukon in May, according to Yukon Tourism and Culture statistics.

June numbers are still being crunched, according to the department.

Currency parity and high gas prices have slowed the RV market, making it a challenge for local businesses, but many people had made plans for their trip three or four years ago and are not allowing gas prices to change plans, said Holmes.

“And if you’re driving a $250,000 land yacht, a couple extra thousand dollars for gas won’t dissuade you from coming to the Yukon,” he added.

Gas prices play only a small role in destination decisions, said Pat Brooks.

“If you fly or get on a cruise ship, you’re paying a fuel surcharge,” he said. “I think people have rationalized the fact that it’s not going to get any cheaper next year so they might as well do it now.

“Frankly, if you’re a visitor from Germany or France, you would stand in front of our desk and say, ‘I love it over here. The cost of fuel so reasonable.’”

The visitors association runs Diamond Tooth Gerties’ Casino and Jack London’s cabin, both popular tourist stops, which have seen a slight increase in visitors, said Holmes. He did not provide numbers and said most places wouldn’t have hard numbers until October.

While private tickets sales are down about 50 per cent at the Dawson City Museum, sales through Holland America are up 37 per cent, which makes out to a slight increase in overall attendance at the museum, said executive director Laura Mann.

“We are doing marginally better than last year,” Mann said.

On average, 12,000 to 14,000 visitors pass through the museum’s large wooden doors from May to August.

“The gold rush still fascinates people,” said Mann. “We have someone stop in literally everyday looking to search our records for information on a relative who came up the Chilkoot as part of the rush.”

This year the museum is focusing on becoming more relevant to the people living in Dawson year-round by offering more off-season programs.

“We’re thrilled the Holland American visits are up, but now we’re concentrating on getting winter visitation up so we’re not just relying on summer months,” said Mann.

Lenore Calnan has owned and operated Raven’s Nook clothing store for 26 years and has seen tourism grow and decline through the years.

This year, however, has been a good year for her store.

“The way my stock is moving out of here, I’m guessing tourism is about the same (compared to 2006),” said Calnan.

“We do have off days, but those are offset by the days we have bus tours coming through. You get soft days, then you get good ones.”

Tourism in Dawson has been an ongoing evolution and has seen steady, if not large, growth for at least the last couple of years, said Calnan

More Canadians are also coming up, and gas prices, currency parity and passport regulations haven’t had a negative impact on Calnan’s business.

“We’re getting more people coming back — from the States, from Germany,” she said. “One fellow from Hamburg (was) in here yesterday and has been coming to Dawson for 25 years.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

d
Wyatt’s World

Wyatt’s World for March 5, 2021.

g
Yukonomist: School competition ramps up in the Yukon

It’s common to see an upstart automaker trying to grab share from… Continue reading

The Yukon government responded to a petition calling the SCAN Act “draconian” on Feb. 19. (Yukon News file)
Yukon government accuses SCAN petitioner of mischaracterizing her eviction

A response to the Jan. 7 petition was filed to court on Feb. 19

City councillor Samson Hartland in Whitehorse on Dec. 3, 2018. Hartland has announced his plans to run for mayor in the Oct. 21 municipal election. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Councillor sets sights on mayor’s chair

Hartland declares election plans

Whitehorse RCMP will provide internet safety training due to an uptick of child luring offences. (iStock photo)
RCMP hosting internet safety webinars for parents and caregivers

The webinars will take place on March 23 and 25

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley receives his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine from Public Health Nurse Angie Bartelen at the Yukon Convention Centre Clinic in Whitehorse on March 3. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
State of emergency extended for another 90 days

“Now we’re in a situation where we see the finish line.”

The Yukon government says it is working towards finding a solution for Dawson area miners who may be impacted by City of Dawson plans and regulations. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Miner expresses frustration over town plan

Designation of claims changed to future planning

Team Yukon athletes wave flags at the 2012 Arctic Winter Games opening ceremony in Whitehorse. The 2022 event in Wood Buffalo, Alta., has been postponed indefinitely. (Justin Kennedy/Yukon News file)
2022 Arctic Winter Games postponed indefinitely

Wood Buffalo, Alta., Host Society committed to rescheduling at a later date

Crews work to clear the South Klondike Highway after an avalanche earlier this week. (Submitted)
South Klondike Highway remains closed due to avalanches

Yukon Avalanche Association recommending backcountry recreators remain vigilant

RCMP Online Crime Reporting website in Whitehorse on March 5. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Whitehorse RCMP launch online crime reporting

Both a website and Whitehorse RCMP app are now available

A man walks passed the polling place sign at city hall in Whitehorse on Oct. 18, 2018. The City of Whitehorse is preparing for a pandemic-era election this October with a number of measures proposed to address COVID-19 restrictions. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
City gets set for Oct. 21 municipal election

Elections procedures bylaw comes forward

A rendering of the Normandy Manor seniors housing facility. (Photo courtesy KBC Developments)
Work on seniors housing project moves forward

Funding announced for Normandy Manor

Tom Ullyett, pictured, is the first Yukoner to receive the Louis St-Laurent Award of Excellence from the Canadian Bar Association for his work as a community builder and mentor in the territory. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News)
Tom Ullyett wins lifetime achievement award from the Canadian Bar Association

Ullyett has worked in the Yukon’s justice ecosystem for 36 years as a public sector lawyer and mentor

Most Read