Tourism and Culture Minister Jeanie McLean speaks in the legislative assembly on Nov. 27, 2017. McLean announced Dec. 14 some details of a three year plan to restore tourism in the territory. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)

Tourism and Culture Minister Jeanie McLean speaks in the legislative assembly on Nov. 27, 2017. McLean announced Dec. 14 some details of a three year plan to restore tourism in the territory. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)

Post-COVID tourism strategy may need a rebrand, says government

$15 million in tourism relief and recovery is planned for the next three years

The Yukon government has released broad strokes of its $15 million tourism relief and recovery plan to be phased in over the next three years.

The government has planned for a large marketing campaign in 2020-21 and 2021-22 in order to “restore traveller confidence” and “secure Yukon as a top-of-mind destination.”

Campaigns will be aimed at both potential Outside visitors planning their next trips, as well as restoring the comfort and confidence of Yukon residents who began to feel uneasy about tourists from heavily COVID-19 affected areas during the pandemic.

“I want to thank all of our tourism partners across the territory for showing leadership throughout the pandemic. We will continue to work in partnership to rebuild Yukon’s vibrant tourism sector,” said Tourism and Culture Minister Jeanie McLean in a statement.

The government has continued to spend on marketing contracts targeted for Australia, Germany, the Netherlands, Japan, China and the United States during the pandemic in order to keep up interest during the downturn.

“We need to keep those markets warm,” McLean said.

The planning document notes that tourism desires may change in a post-COVID world.

According to the plan, post-COVID tourists will be looking for authentic experiences, ‘untouched’ destinations and a return to basic values – all angles the Yukon is hoping to capitalize on when the pandemic subsides.

Destination Canada is estimating that it may take five years for visitation to return to 2019 levels.

The territory’s tourism brand and assets may need to be updated, according to the document, as the “current ‘Larger than Life’ tagline and brand may not resonate as well in a post-COVID-19 world.”

Although the deployment of vaccines around the world has begun, it is likely that some restrictions and protocols will remain in place as the world adapts to living with COVID-19. The government has committed to supporting industry-wide standards for safe travel.

“The Tourism Relief and Recovery Plan is the strong and sustainable plan Yukon’s tourism industry has been looking for,” said Neil Hartling, chair of the Tourism Industry Association of Yukon, in a statement.

“The plan represents a firm commitment by the government to stabilize and support the territory’s critical tourism sector, and the tourism industry looks forward to working in partnership with the Yukon government on its implementation,” he said.

The government has also planned to create a centralized “concierge” service to help tourism businesses in navigating the range of relief options that have been made available.

In October the government announced a $2.8 million pot of funds for the accommodation sector, including hotels and cabins. Later, $1 million was offered to other businesses through the “Tourism Non-Accommodation Sector Supplement” and the third stream will offer $300,000 for designated culture and tourism non-profits.

To qualify, most businesses must max out their funding from the Yukon Business Relief Program and CanNor’s Northern Business Relief Fund. Both programs had a ceiling of $100,000.

On Dec. 14 opposition MLAs questioned the plan in the legislature, noting that the 30-page document is short on financial information. So far, $4.5 million has been set aside for relief programs.

Yukon Party MLA Stacey Hassard asked when a specific breakdown of the remaining $10.5 million has been set aside for tourism recovery and relief.

“We have a plan for recovery over a three-year period. We have two more fiscal years following where those dollars will be allocated. The action plans will be developed with our partners,” said McLean.

“What we’ve heard from businesses over the last number of months is that they had a terrible summer, that most of them make their revenue predominantly in the summer, and then they struggle to get through the winter. That’s going to be particularly the case this year,” said Yukon Party leader Currie Dixon.

“We want to make sure that these businesses can actually make it through the winter before we can talk about whether they’re going to be able to recover in two or three years,” Dixon said.

Destination Canada research has suggested that COVID-19 has caused a 43 to 61 per cent decline in the Canadian tourism economy in 2020.

Contact Haley Ritchie at haley.ritchie@yukon-news.com

CoronavirusTourismYukon government

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