FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE January 10, 2023
WHITEHORSE – The Yukon Party Official Opposition is providing suggestions to the Yukon Government to ensure that tourism operators are able to fully benefit from returning travellers.
During the 2022 spring sitting, the Minister of Tourism and Culture assured operators after two years of closure, the Little Gold-Poker Creek border crossing connecting Canada and the U.S. via the Top of the World Highway west of Dawson City would be ‘open as normal’ for the summer. However, border officials later said the crossing would be operational from June 1 until September 1 – a full month shorter than the traditional mid-May to late-September operating period. After the border announcement, Dawson businesses reported a number of cancellations to bookings.
“Yukon tourism operators are now looking to the Liberal government for guidance on how to proceed in 2023,” said Tourism and Culture Critic Geraldine Van Bibber. “The Liberal government should not hold out the ‘Mission Accomplished’ sign like they did last year. The Minister needs to regularly communicate with the Yukon’s tourism industry about the status and operations of all critical crossings so businesses are not faced with uncertainty and cancellations like they were last year.”
Van Bibber is making a number of suggestions to the government. Those include:
- Pushing Canadian and U.S. border officials to restore the traditional opening and closing times of the Little Gold – Poker Creek Border Crossing from mid-May to late September;
- Ensuring the George Black Ferry connecting Dawson with the Top of the World Highway is mechanically sound and fully staffed for the 2023 season;
- Asking the federal government to work with the White Pass and Yukon Route Railway to ensure there are no delays crossing the border between Skagway and Carcross;
- Ensuring proper staffing and protocols are in place to welcome arrivals of international flights at the Erik Nielsen Whitehorse International Airport;
- Consulting with tourism industry partners to find out what border and other infrastructure operations are required to ensure a successful tourism season; and
- Providing relevant and transparent information for tourism operators and Yukoners by reporting numbers that compare current visitation against traditional tourism seasons prior to COVID, instead of using travel during COVID-years as a baseline.
Also in early April 2022, the White Pass & Yukon Route announced trips to the Yukon would not cross the border due to restrictions and uncertainty around wait times. The announcement came just days after the Minister of Tourism and Culture told the Legislature that border issues had been resolved. This dealt a blow to businesses in the Carcross and the Southern Lakes region that reported their traffic was down, with some indicating visitation was as low as only 10 percent of pre-COVID numbers.
“The numbers show tourism is the Yukon’s second-most important economic driver behind mining,” said Van Bibber. “The Liberal government should be putting tourism operators in the best possible position to succeed for the benefit of the economy and all Yukoners.”