A $1-million injection to tourism in the territory annually could see upgraded tourist attractions, accommodation, staff housing, trail improvements, better signage, road upgrades and more.
The Yukon government announced the creation of the community tourism destination development fund at an Oct. 27 press conference with Tourism and Culture Minister Ranj Pillai describing the new fund, beginning in 2023, as a way to strengthen tourism capacity in communities across the Yukon.
“Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, the Yukon tourism industry was experiencing the capacity challenges, particularly in our smaller communities,” he said. “In many cases, we attract enough visitors in our communities, but we do not have the capacity to make the most of the economic benefit that tourism offers.”
The funds will be available on a first come, first serve basis to businesses, First Nation governments and development corporations, municipalities and not-for-profit groups for projects to improve tourism services and infrastructure.
Examples of applications that fit the criteria would be upgrades and expansions to existing tourist attractions such as First Nation cultural centres, heritage and historic sites, trails and signage. On the businesses side, upgrades to visitor accommodations with 20 rooms or less, employee housing, visitor and event centres are on the list.
There’s also the possibility of washroom, campground and road improvements where the road is directly connected to a project.
Special consideration will be given to projects where local organizations are working to create more tourism opportunities in their community.
Using Dawson as a potential example, he noted there’s the municipal and First Nation governments, the Klondike Visitors Association and a development corporation.
“What we’re hoping is those groups will come together, they’ll align their capacity and efficiencies,” he said.
As for whether the territory has the available labour for the projects given the current labour shortage, Pillai said the government will be working with communities on measures to address that.
He also pointed out that work anticipated to be funded through the program aren’t major capital projects, but rather initiatives that can be done fairly quickly.
“The capacity is here in the Yukon, no problem, to execute the projects that we’ve talked about and so we’re comfortable with the labour issue,” Pillai said.
Ben Ryan, treasurer of the Tourism Industry Association of the Yukon, said the new fund aligns with direction being taken at the national level.
“Destination development is at the forefront of Canada’s tourism strategy,” he said, adding he believes this will put the territory “at the cutting edge of what Canada is trying to do in the global tourism landscape.”
The fund is divided into two tiers for applications.
Businesses and organizations can apply under tier 1 for projects with budgets up to $100,000. Tier 2 projects have budgets between $100,001 and $500,000.
An application deadline of Feb. 15, 2023 has been set for tier 1 projects, while a March 15, 2023 deadline is in place for tier 2 projects.
Full program guidelines and application forms will be available online on Nov. 30.
An information session is scheduled from 11 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. on Nov. 30 at Yukonstruct in Whitehorse and virtually over Zoom. It will be recorded and posted online.
Outreach sessions are also being organized for communities.
Contact Stephanie Waddell at firstname.lastname@example.org