Public tours at the SS Klondike and Dredge No. 4 will be up and running as of June 1, according to Parks Canada.
Parks announced the final plans for tours at both historic sites yesterday. Four companies will be running tours at the SS Klondike, while three will handle tours at Dredge No. 4 .
“I’m really quite pleased with the end result because we’ve got licensees for each of the locations that are going to be offering more regular tours, and licensees that are going to be offering more niche-market tours, so it’s a really nice mix at both locations,” said Anne Morin, Parks Canada’s Yukon superintendent.
Some of the tour operators will run regularly scheduled tours, while others will include tours in their larger, pre-packaged tour trips.
“The niche tours could be part of larger tours of the whole Yukon or tours of the gold fields, so they have more specific niches that they’re looking to fill,” Morin said.
The companies will be free to charge whatever prices they think the market can handle. They will have to go through a mandatory orientation session and be ready to start running tours on June 1. Parks Canada will continue to pay for operations and maintenance, as well as ensure there are no scheduling snafus with the various competing operators.
On top of all the guided tour options, the public can still visit the sites on their own for self-guided tours. At Dredge No. 4, visitors won’t be allowed to go inside without a guide because of safety concerns, but at the S.S. Klondike people can go on board and use a brochure or a downloadable smartphone app to guide them through the historic ship.
Nature Tours of Yukon is one of the licensees that will be running tours at both the SS Klondike and the Dredge No. 4. General manager Joost van der Tuppen said that while the company is still finalizing their summer plans, he is confident they can meet the June 1 deadline.
“We are working on a package right now,” van der Tuppen said.
“One thing for sure is that we’ll have the tours incorporated in some of our van tours and city tours. I’m glad we can have those incorporated into our tours, especially doing it ourselves. For a few years, we have always been relying on Parks Canada.”
Van der Tuppen said that he and his staff have given tours at the SS Klondike before, in cooperation with Parks Canada, and they have enough historical knowledge to handle running tours on a permanent basis.
At this point, van der Tuppen is unsure exactly how many tours his company will be offering at each location, but those decisions will be finalized in the coming weeks.
“We are for sure offering them as integrated parts of our own packages. Now we’re going to sit together with our operations manager and staff and see how often we could offer the trips. We’re probably looking at not a daily trip, but at least a few times every week.
“Our season already starts at the end of May, so we’re going to see how that works out in the end. The next few weeks are dedicated to making our planning for the summer,” van der Tuppen said.
Last spring, Parks Canada announced it was cancelling guided tours at both sites in an attempt to save money after the federal government cut its budget. Many businesses in Whitehorse rely on the tourism that the historic sites bring in, and there was a strong demand that the tours be reinstated. In December, the Tourism Industry Association of Yukon put a call out for companies interested in taking over the tours privately.
In March, MP Ryan Leef announced that private operators would be allowed to take over the tours themselves.
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