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Yukon tourism recovery will take years, says new government strategy

The Yukon government set a three-year goal to revive its tourism industry, an optimistic plan compared to a national-level estimate from Destination Canada.

Yukon government sets a 3-year goal to revive its tourism industry

A guided expedition makes its way down the Big Salmon River in 2017. The territory's tourism sector had seen some record-breaking growth in recent years but has precipitously declined due to COVID-19. (Philippe Morin/CBC)

The Yukon government is setting a goal to revive tourism within three years.

That goal is optimistic compared to a national-level estimate from Destination Canada, which says Canada's tourism industry will need five years to rebound from the pandemic.

On Monday, the Yukon government published a local tourism "relief and recovery plan."

"Our goal is to return to 2019 levels of tourism employment and revenue in tourism within three years," announced Yukon Minister of Tourism and Culture Jeanie McLean.

Yukon tourism had been seeing record-breaking growth before the pandemic, however the COVID-19 pandemic nearly stopped out-of-territory visitors earlier this year.

The tourism recovery plan also pledges more marketing for Yukon, to encourage visitors 'when the time is right.' (Philippe Morin/CBC)

COVID-19 has meant 'a really dark time' for tourism sector

In 2018 the tourism sector accounted for $367.8 million in revenue and five per cent of Yukon's gross domestic product.

"It's hard to overstate how badly the pandemic has hurt our dynamic, resilient tourism industry. The last 10 months have been a really dark time," said McLean.

Neil Hartling, chair of Tourism Industry Association Yukon (TIAY), said the sector accounts for 400 businesses and employs about 4,000 people in Yukon.

The publication of the tourism plan on Monday doesn't bring new funding. A total of $15 million from the territorial government has already been pledged over the next three years.

Some specific measures within that funding such as aid to hotels and restaurants have already been announced.

Hartling said the amount represents a "small investment that will yield big dividends for Yukon's economy."

McLean said that $4 million in funding was expected to be delivered this fiscal year with other investments made over the next three years totalling about $15 million.

'Maintaining a healthy tourism sector will not come at a cost of health and safety of Yukoners,' said Tourism and Culture Minister Jeanie McLean. (Chris Windeyer/CBC)

Tourism campaign coming to Yukon

Any plan to revive tourism will have to deal with risk of importing COVID-19.

McLean promised that "maintaining a healthy tourism sector will not come at a cost of health and safety of Yukoners."

Denny Kobayashi who is chair of the Yukon Tourism Advisory Board said the risk of COVID-19 is a concern expressed by communities and operators alike.

"We heard it from Yukon communities, we heard it from First Nations. We heard from Yukon tourism operators that the safety of their families and the safety of their guests was critical to their success as well," he said.

Kobayashi said the advisory board moved that COVID-19 safety be considered a "core value" of any recovery plan. With this in place, he said the Yukon Tourism Advisory Board "fully supports" the plan.

"We are confident that [with] this plan, Yukon's tourism industry will recover more quickly and once again welcome the world."

'Wide-open, clean pristine spaces are in great demand,' said Neil Hartling of Tourism Industry Association Yukon. (Philippe Morin/CBC)

Plan seeks to build confidence for residents and travellers

One element of the recovery plan will be to develop "standardized safe travel protocols" for tourism operators in Yukon.

McLean described the goal "to ensure residents and travellers have confidence that the necessary precautions are being taken by our business community."

The World Travel and Tourism Council has started a campaign called "#SafeTravels." The program flags so-called "safe" destinations and businesses with a green logo if they follow standardized protocols dealing with COVID-19.

TIAY has been providing the stamp to Yukon tourism businesses since early September and 26 Yukon businesses have been certified to date.

"We're proud to see the Yukon tourism industry out front embracing those standards," said Hartling.

Asked about whether visitors would require proof of vaccination to visit, McLean did not definitively comment.

She said "conversations," on such matters were important and upcoming and that the department would be following the guidance of Yukon's chief medical officer on all matters.

A total of $15 million for tourism sector recovery has already been pledged by the Yukon government for the next three years. (Philippe Morin/CBC)

New marketing on the way

The tourism relief and recovery plan also pledges more marketing for Yukon, to encourage visitors "when the time is right."

Hartling said he believes the territory's tourism has a bright future after the pandemic.

"I think the good news is that the Yukon is well-positioned internationally at this point in time for a strong recovery," he said, adding the "wide-open, clean pristine spaces" like those in Yukon are in great demand.

"That's exactly the sort of tonic that the post-COVID world is going to be seeking out. All indications from tourism industry businesses is that we should see a relatively fast recovery."

Corrections

  • An earlier version of this story said Yukon businesses will be earning the #SafeTravels certification in the future. In fact, 26 Yukon businesses are already using the stamp.
    Dec 15, 2020 11:21 AM CT

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