Results of the most recent detailed tourism survey are in and the news is good, says the executive director of the Tourism Industry Association Yukon (TIA).
Blake Rogers said that though the numbers released in a 66-page report go back to the 2017/2018 season, they do reflect a trend that appears to be continuing in the 2019 season.
Rogers called 2019 “a solid year,” based mainly on what operators have shared with the association, most recently at TIA Yukon’s annual conference held in Dawson Sept. 25 to 27.
While a few stats are in from some, many private operators are still assessing the summer season.
The exit survey is done approximately every four years and provides extensive details on how many people are coming to the territory, their demographics, what visitors are doing when they’re here, how long they’re staying and where their money is being spent.
Information is collected at exit points throughout the territory – airports, border crossings, etc. – with the last survey happening in 2012/2013.
Since then there’s been a 25 per cent increase in the number of visitors with an estimated 491,300 visiting in 2017/2018 compared to 2012/2013 when the information was broken into two separate reports for summer and winter.
The summer report showed an estimated 317,200 visitors to the territory between June 1 and Sept. 30, 2012 with another 75,700 through the winter from Oct. 1, 2012 to April 30, 2013.
Most visitors in 2017/2018 were from the United States at 62 per cent with just 28 per cent of visitors coming from within Canada. The remaining 10 per cent were made up of international visitors from places other than the United States.
The majority – 57 per cent – were over the age of 55 with 71 per cent of all visitors arriving by private vehicle.
Of those staying more than a day – 71 per cent – the average visit lasted 4.3 nights.
As for the economics, visitors spent $429 million on travel packages that included the Yukon (and may have included other areas such as Alaska).
Excluding packages, those in the Yukon spent a total of $149 million while in the territory including $48 million on transportation, $40 million on accommodation, $34 million on food and drink, $9 million each on gifts and recreation/entertainment. The remaining $8 million is described as spending on “other activities”.
Visitor Information Centres were listed as the top activities with 278,300 visits. That was followed by 267,900 visits to historic sites, parks or buildings; 265,500 visits to museums; 205,500 going wildlife viewing or bird watching; 169,100 going camping; 136,400 going hiking; 103,500 visits to cultural centres; 72,600 taking in a community walking tour; 60,200 visiting friends or relatives; and 31,300 visiting a recreation facility like the Canada Games Centre.
Overall, the numbers are positive for the territory, Rogers said, acknowledging it would be good to see the number of visitors coming to the territory from across the country rise.
“There’s room for growth,” he said.
And that’s something he believes is and will continue to happen over time.
The 2012 figures showed 25 per cent of the visitors in the summer came from within Canada with the winter figures showing 45 per cent were Canadian.
There are companies doing a good job marketing within the country, he said, pointing to Air North as a prime example with its flights to and from Alberta and B.C.
Businesses are reporting a lot of interest from within Canada, but it seems to be a matter of convincing potential visitors that the territory is not as far away as they might think.
“I think it’s generally moving in a positive direction,” Rogers said.
Klondike Visitors Association chair Brian Stethem also noted the importance of the figures.
“We know that 2017/18 was an exceptional year for tourism to Dawson City, as well as the Yukon, and the results of this survey confirm that.”
The year has not been without its challenges.
Forest fires in certain areas had some impact on the season and the labour shortage continues to be an issue.
As Rogers said, the labour shortage for tourism workers is not unique to the Yukon with the industry experiencing a shortage around the world.
There are a lot of organizations working to find “Yukon-made solutions” for the territory, he said.
The issue has been highlighted in recent months with the Yukon government announcing a pilot initiative under its Yukon Nominee program that will give employers in six communities more flexibility to hire employees under the program.
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