Yukon tourists buying less

It's a tourism double whammy. Not only are fewer people visiting the Yukon, the ones we're getting are stingier than normal. "We've noticed a lot more people are asking, 'How much does this cost?' before they engage in any purchases,"

It’s a tourism double whammy.

Not only are fewer people visiting the Yukon, the ones we’re getting are stingier than normal.

“We’ve noticed a lot more people are asking, ‘How much does this cost?’ before they engage in any purchases,” said Rick Karp, president of the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce.

The global recession has forced tourism marketers, such as Holland America, to drastically reduce the cost of their Yukon trips.

All the deep discounting means that “less avid” spenders are coming to the territory, said Karp.

Visitors are still paying for hotels and admission fees—but they’re tightening their belts on “discretionary spending.”

“People are visiting the museum, but they’re not shopping in the way they have been previously, ” said Patricia Cunning, executive director of the MacBride Museum.

Robert Service books continue to fly off the shelves—but nobody’s touching the carved antlers.

“They’re buying $5 souvenirs, but they’re not buying $200 items of jewelry,” said Cunning.

“We still have quite a few people, but the amounts of the purchases are a little bit smaller,” said Eva Schmid with Maximillian’s Gold Rush Emporium, based in Dawson.

Main Street’s North End Gallery has seen a drop in sales of “big-ticket items” ($800 or more), said Art Webster, the gallery’s owner.

Still, Webster’s average sales remain “identical” to last year’s.

“Instead of big-ticket purchases, people are just buying more items,” said Webster.

In late 2008, Holland America launched a round of “unprecedented low fares” in a bid to fill their increasingly vacant cruise ships.

Still, “cruise tours are still down 20 to 30 per cent over last year’s numbers,” said Heather McIntyre, manager of Holland America’s Westmark Whitehorse hotel.

McIntyre’s hotel has taken its own hit in discretionary spending.

The Westmark gift shop has seen sales drop by as much as 70 per cent, she said.

“The reality is that American consumers appear to be cutting back,” according to the Yukon Department of Tourism’s year-end report for 2008.

In the last quarter of 2008, US consumer spending dropped by 3.1 per cent—the first decline in 17 years.

Cruise Canada Inc., which rents most of its RVs to Europeans, hasn’t noticed a dip in demand, said Leo Boon, manager of Whitehorse’s Cruise Canada RV rentals.

However, the US-based franchise has dropped its rental rates.

RV owners are likely hitting the roads less, said Boon.

“Most of those people are retirees; they live off dividends from their portfolios, and those portfolios have crashed,” he said.

Parking spaces have indeed been getting harder to find at Wal-Mart, thanks to RVers, but it shouldn’t indicate a crashing economy, said Boon.

“RVers are just the same kind of mix of people that you have for regular tourists; you have backpackers, you have people that stay in hotels, you have people that stay in luxury resorts,” said Boon.

Wal-Mart campers are merely “backpackers of the RV industry.”

A relatively strong Canadian dollar may also be to blame for reduced tourist spending.

Over the past month, the exchange rate has hovered at $1.15 CDN for every US dollar.

In past years, a weak Canadian dollar has been a key method of luring Alaskans and lower-48ers over the border.

Local tourism is also spurred, since it’s more expensive for Canadian to travel outside the country.

Cheapskates or not, fewer tourists come to the Yukon with each passing year.

“Our core tourism numbers have been dropping little by little over the last decade,” said Cunning.

Border crossings—one of the government’s only tourism yardsticks—continue to tumble.

In 2008, Yukon border crossings by US citizens dropped by 13 per cent.

In the first part of 2009, they’ve dropped another 13 per cent.

Canada-wide, tourism numbers have been dropping for nine straight months, the first time since “2001, when the tourism sector, already in a downturn, was hit by the events of September 11 and their aftermath,” reported Statistics Canada.

Contact Tristin Hopper at


Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Crystal Schick/Yukon News
Calvin Delwisch poses for a photo inside his DIY sauna at Marsh Lake on Feb. 18.
Yukoners turning up the heat with unique DIY sauna builds

Do-it-yourselfers say a sauna built with salvaged materials is a great winter project

Wyatt’s World

Wyatt’s World for March 5, 2021.

Yukonomist: School competition ramps up in the Yukon

It’s common to see an upstart automaker trying to grab share from… Continue reading

The Yukon government responded to a petition calling the SCAN Act “draconian” on Feb. 19. (Yukon News file)
Yukon government accuses SCAN petitioner of mischaracterizing her eviction

A response to the Jan. 7 petition was filed to court on Feb. 19

City councillor Samson Hartland in Whitehorse on Dec. 3, 2018. Hartland has announced his plans to run for mayor in the Oct. 21 municipal election. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Councillor sets sights on mayor’s chair

Hartland declares election plans

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley receives his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine from Public Health Nurse Angie Bartelen at the Yukon Convention Centre Clinic in Whitehorse on March 3. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
State of emergency extended for another 90 days

“Now we’re in a situation where we see the finish line.”

The Yukon government says it is working towards finding a solution for Dawson area miners who may be impacted by City of Dawson plans and regulations. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Miner expresses frustration over town plan

Designation of claims changed to future planning

Team Yukon athletes wave flags at the 2012 Arctic Winter Games opening ceremony in Whitehorse. The 2022 event in Wood Buffalo, Alta., has been postponed indefinitely. (Justin Kennedy/Yukon News file)
2022 Arctic Winter Games postponed indefinitely

Wood Buffalo, Alta., Host Society committed to rescheduling at a later date

Housing construction continues in the Whistle Bend subdivision in Whitehorse on Oct. 29, 2020. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Yukon Bureau of Statistics reports rising rents for Yukoners, falling revenues for businesses

The bureau has published several reports on the rental market and businesses affected by COVID-19

Council of Yukon First Nations grand chief Peter Johnston at the Yukon Forum in Whitehorse on Feb. 14, 2019. Johnston and Highways and Public Works Minister Richard Mostyn announced changes to the implementation of the Yukon First Nations Procurement Policy on March 3. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Third phase added to procurement policy implementation

Additional time added to prep for two provisions

Crews work to clear the South Klondike Highway after an avalanche earlier this week. (Submitted)
South Klondike Highway remains closed due to avalanches

Yukon Avalanche Association recommending backcountry recreators remain vigilant

RCMP Online Crime Reporting website in Whitehorse on March 5. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Whitehorse RCMP launch online crime reporting

Both a website and Whitehorse RCMP app are now available

A man walks passed the polling place sign at city hall in Whitehorse on Oct. 18, 2018. The City of Whitehorse is preparing for a pandemic-era election this October with a number of measures proposed to address COVID-19 restrictions. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
City gets set for Oct. 21 municipal election

Elections procedures bylaw comes forward

Most Read