John Tonin/Yukon News Rang Pillai speaks at the Great Yukon Summer press conference on May 27.

John Tonin/Yukon News Rang Pillai speaks at the Great Yukon Summer press conference on May 27.

‘The sooner the better’: Operators react to Great Yukon Summer campaign

The Great Yukon Summer campaign was announced May 27 and begins June 4

In a May 27 press conference, Minister of Tourism and Culture Ranj Pillai introduced the Great Yukon Summer campaign.

The campaign offers a rebate on tourism packages valued at $250 or more for Yukon residents, advertising and marketing initiatives for tourism businesses and $500,000 for events old or new.

The rebate program begins on June 4 with the idea that Yukoners will spend their tourism dollars in the territory.

Manuela Larsen, owner and operator at Muktuk Adventures, said she was working on building packages before the announcement was made.

“It was only announced last week but if you followed the election it was part of their campaign so you knew something was brewing in the background,” said Larsen. “I was hoping it would come through so we’ve been working on it beforehand.”

With the rebate initiative beginning June 4, it gave tourism a week plus a day to get packages ready.

“In an ideal world it would have been great if we had known earlier but I always look at the positive side and I’m just really happy that it is happening,” said Larsen. “It is something that gets you excited and maybe you get more locals than before. With having that deadline you have to dive into it full-on.”

Joel Hibbard at Nahanni River Adventures and Canadian River Expeditions believes the Great Yukon Summer is a creative campaign.

“I think at the heart of the program Minister Pillai saw some opportunity and some vision because we do need Yukoners to share their summer experiences and their Yukon experiences with the world and friends and families,” said Hibbard.

Although the turnaround for packages is quick, Hibbard said “the sooner the better”.

James Allen, an operator at Shakat Tun Adventures hopes the campaign brings more Yukoners to his business.

“I think it is a great idea if people starting booking at local tourism businesses,” said Allen. “I have a business but people aren’t familiar with my business. It’s more of a cultural tourism business and I’m not sure how many people would like to experience that instead of the regular canoeing or rafting trips.”

Allen said in the past his business has attracted more Outside travellers.

“We’ve had more national tourists than we’ve had Yukoners,” said Allen.

Taking advantage of the marketing

Larsen was just as happy with the marketing component of the Great Yukon Summer.

“The $2,000 marketing initiative might seem really short notice to put a campaign together but I’m thinking long-term,” said Larsen. “That campaign we put together we can use to create videos and media libraries that we can use in the future.”

Allen said he will also look to use the marketing funds available to operators.

“Marketing to me, I’m new to it, so I’ll have to get some help advertising my business,” said Allen.

Fostering new relationships in the industry

Hibbard, who is also a director at the Wilderness Tourism Association of Yukon, said now is a time to get creative.

“There is definitely a lot of encouragement to have operators speaking with each other to see how you link,” said Hibbard. “This is a great opportunity to test drive new business models and explore what the recovery to the Yukon tourism industry could look like.”

Larsen said this “a great opportunity” to reach out to other businesses.

“There as so many new businesses coming up, we already do package tours and we’ve been working with other businesses already, but there are certainly some small ones we haven’t worked with before who we’d consider contacting,” said Larsen.

What else could be done?

Allen said the Great Yukon Summer is a “great idea” that will help with cash flow but believes there could be more done to help operators.

“Right now is a good time to improve or finish some of the infrastructure you have at your facility,” said Allen. “It would be nice to have some funding to help us develop our facilities where we can safely and comfortably bring in customers when COVID is over.”

Allen, who operates a First Nation business, would like to see separate initiatives for First Nation businesses.

“I think the First Nations need a boost in getting into business,” said Allen. “Our needs are a little different. It would really help if there was a different type of funding for First Nations business.

“Tourism is a natural fit for us. We are tied to the land and I think we relate to the animals and environment.”

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