Yukon tourists not coming cheap

Per capita, the Yukon spends more on tourism marketing than any other Canadian jurisdiction. And, per marketing dollar, Yukoners see the lowest returns on visitor spending.

Per capita, the Yukon spends more on tourism marketing than any other Canadian jurisdiction.

And, per marketing dollar, Yukoners see the lowest returns on visitor spending.

The Yukon government spends $5 million per year on tourism promotion. Visitors spend $193 million in the territory.

For every $38 spent by a visitor to the Yukon, one dollar is spent by the government on tourism marketing.

Nunavut gets $41 in visitor spending for each marketing dollar.

The Northwest Territories earns $56.8 in visitor spending per marketing dollar.

The provinces see significantly higher returns.

BC receives at least $159 in visitor spending per marketing dollar.

And, despite the millions it spends on promotion, Yukon tourism continues to decline.

Over the past two years, the Erik Nielsen Whitehorse International Airport has seen its passenger traffic slip.

Border crossings continue to drop.

Only 299,860 people crossed into the Yukon from Alaska in 2008, 30,000 fewer than in 2007.

Preliminary Yukon government figures show a further decline in 2009.

In 1997, when the tourism marketing budget was only $4.3 million, 326,846 tourists crossed the border.

The Yukon costs so much to market because it’s a niche product, said Rod Raycroft, overseas marketing manager for the Yukon Department of Tourism.

“When you get into more niche products, the cost of advertising and marketing is going to increase,” he said.

Larger tourism destinations like BC and Ontario benefit from higher levels of “awareness.”

“There’s a lot more awareness about BC than there is about the Yukon, wouldn’t you agree?” said Raycroft.

The Yukon and Alaska are “different animals” in the tourism market, said Ron Peck, president of the Alaska Travel Industry Association.

Using a little more than twice the number of marketing dollars, Alaska is able to bring in six times the visitors.

Welcoming 1.95 million tourists per year, Alaska spends roughly six dollars in marketing per visitor.

The Yukon, on the other hand, pays out $16 for each of its tourists — many of whom are on their way to Alaska.

In Alaska, tourism marketing is handled by the privately run Alaska Travel Industry Association.

The state puts up $9 million, and private tourism businesses put up $2.7 million, for a combined tourism budget of $11.7 million.

“What we like about this is that we have responsibility to government, but there’s also a substantial public sector buy-in,” said Peck.

Alaska has seen its tourism in “growth mode” ever since September 11, 2001.

“We believe our program works. Could we have a stronger impact if we had more funding? Absolutely,” said Peck.

Overseas tourists, especially, come at a premium for Yukon tourism marketers.

On average, the Yukon government spends $67 luring Swiss or German tourists here.

Britions and Australians come a bit cheaper, at only $44 in marketing per tourist.

“Acquisition markets” (Japan, South Korea, The Netherlands and France) are, by far, the most expensive, at $119 per visitor.

For an American, Canadian or Mexican to visit the Yukon, it only costs $15 a head.

Keeping accurate track of Yukon tourism on a month-to-month basis remains difficult, given the territory’s trio of ambiguous tourism indicators.

Border crossings, airport arrivals and visitor information centre visits remain the only short-term method of tracking Yukon visitors.

If a California RVer entered the Yukon through BC and failed to sign their name at a visitor info centre, the Department of Tourism wouldn’t even know they were here.

“As for tourism stats, we don’t really pay attention,” said James McCullough, rooms division manager for the Gold Rush Inn and the High Country Inn.

“They’ve been reporting that the numbers are going to be down, but we’ve actually shown a lot of growth,” he said.

Most of that business has come from highway traffic, said McCullough.

With tourism statistics, the Yukon Department of Tourism “is more justifying their existence than anything else,” said Morris Kostiuk, owner of the Pioneer RV Park.

Many jurisdictions supplement their tourism data by keeping track of hotel and campground occupancy rates.

The Yukon could do that, but local hotels are unwilling to give up that information, said Denny Kobayashi, manager of North American marketing for the Yukon Department of Tourism.

“We’re more than willing to participate,” said McCullough.

Contact Tristin Hopper at

tristinh@yukon-news.com