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Yukon tourism growing steadily, new survey data shows

Yukon is seeing more visitors and those visitors are also spending more, according to new survey data from the territorial government.

Territory saw nearly half a million visitors in 2017-18, up 25 per cent from 5 years earlier

New data from a visitor exit survey conducted between November 2017 and October 2018 found that the number of annual visitors to Yukon grew by about 25 per cent from 5 years earlier. (Paul Tukker/CBC)

New data shows that tourism in Yukon continues to grow, especially in the winter months.

"Between the growth in summer and the growth in winter, winter is growing faster," said Pierre Germain, the territory's director of tourism.

Germain referred to new data released Friday, from a visitor exit survey conducted between November 2017 and October 2018. Visitors to Yukon were asked for their information and opinions at points of exit in the territory.

The last such survey was done five years earlier and the latest results show a 25 per cent increase in the annual number of visitors to Yukon since then. About 491,300 people came to Yukon in 2017-18.

"I think the survey results confirm the continued growth of tourism as an industry within the Yukon," Germain said.

'What Yukoners have said to us is, 'we'd rather have 100 visitors spending $1,000 a day than 1,000 visitors spending $100,'' said Pierre Germain, Yukon's director of tourism. (CBC)

While the number of visitors has grown, the amount of money being spent by those tourists in Yukon has grown even more. Germain says that's good news.

"What Yukoners have said to us is, 'we'd rather have 100 visitors spending $1,000 a day than 1,000 visitors spending $100,'" he said.

"So this data kind of confirms that direction that we're heading."

The data also show that most visitors were American (62 per cent), and tended to be 55 or older (57 per cent). A significant majority of visitors drove themselves to Yukon (71 per cent), and a lot of them listed Alaska as their main destination (42 per cent, compared to 43 per cent who said Yukon was their main destination).

In other words, a lot of Yukon's tourists are still retired American RV-ers, stopping in on their way to Alaska. But Germain says that's changing.

'The long-haul rubber-tire traveler is on a relatively slow but steady decline,' Germain said. (travelyukon.com)

"The long-haul rubber-tire traveler is on a relatively slow but steady decline. But it's being offset by those that are flying into the territory, and who are renting vehicles and RVs when they're here."

Cruise ships, day trips

Cruise ship passengers, day-tripping into Yukon from nearby Skagway, Alaska, are also a significant market — and the numbers continue to grow. Skagway anticipated a million cruise ship passengers this year.

That's a mixed blessing for Yukon — the ships deliver more visitors, but can also put a strain on local infrastructure in places like Carcross.

"It's a growing segment. It's going to continue to grow, and so we need to continue to work with the communities and the partners and the stakeholders, to identify how much we want to capitalize on that — and where the boundaries are," Germain said.

Megan Epler Wood, a conservationist and consultant in the field of sustainable tourism, said so far, Yukon seems to be doing it right. Epler Wood was a guest speaker this week in Dawson City, at the Yukon Tourism Industry Association's annual conference.

"I absolutely love the Yukon tourism plan that came out earlier this year," she said. "What I do see here is such an incredible level of interest in doing it right."

Written by Paul Tukker, with files from Elyn Jones

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