Whitehorse Daily Star

Image title

Photo by Whitehorse Star

Rich Thompson, Neil Hartling and Jeanie Dendys

Lack of marketing plan has hurt tourism operators

The Yukon’s border will open to B.C. residents on July 1,

By Whitehorse Star on June 23, 2020

The Yukon’s border will open to B.C. residents on July 1, but the lack of marketing by the Tourism department means local operators likely won’t see the boost in visitation they’d hoped for.

“If you’re going to make it available for B.C. residents to come up to the Yukon, you’ve got to be telling them the borders are opening, you’ve got to be advertising to them and be providing packages so they can book with some certainty,” Rich Thompson, chair of the Yukon’s Business Advisory Council, told the Star this morning.

“As long as there aren’t formal plans in place, it’s very difficult for operators to plan and make bookings; in fact, it’s impossible.”

The Yukon border will open to B.C. residents on Canada Day as the territory launches stage two of its reopening plan.

The border opening provided some hope to tourism operators that they might see some visitor traffic in the latter half of this summer.

Neil Hartling, chair of the Tourism Industry Association of Yukon, told the Star the Yukon government still hasn’t launched a marketing plan directed to southern markets.

The Travel Yukon website still directs visitors to the current travel restrictions on yukon.ca – without giving any indication that the border will open next week.

Hartling said there’s been a delay in launching a marketing campaign to attract B.C. visitors.

“There’s an excellent tourism marketing plan loaded and ready to go, but for some reason they’ve been told to hold off,” Hartling told the Star this morning.

“In a perfect world, it would have gone out immediately, as it was ready.”

Hartling said tourism operators depend on the Tourism department to inform B.C. residents they can safely and legally visit the Yukon.

Tourism operators can’t individually advertise to B.C. residents unless it’s clear that the government is on board, he explained.

When potential visitors see restrictions on the government website, it leads to confusion about why Yukon operators are advertising.

“If the government website says we’re locked down, heavily restricted and doesn’t have any inviting wording … they’ll question the integrity or the honesty of the operator,” Hartling said.

“They’ll assume that if the government isn’t inviting people, the operator is out of touch.”

Hartling said he recently received a call from a tourism operator who wondered if B.C. residents who recently immigrated to Canada would be able to cross the Yukon border.

Those are the types of questions that are still unanswered by the Yukon government, Hartling said.

With only a week before the border opens, tourism operators are still unsure of what the rules will be for B.C. visitors.

This has dashed hopes for seeing tourist traffic in July, causing many operators to plan for August instead.

“It’s quickly passing through their fingers,” Hartling said.

“Normally, we look at August as the tail-end of the season.”

Thompson told the Star that the delay in marketing has presented a challenge to tourism operators trying to make plans for this summer.

“That challenge means we’re squandering opportunity to actually make bookings in early July,” Thompson said.

“There’s an understandable level of anxiety in tourism operators who are seeing their life savings go up in smoke.”

Thompson called the opening of the B.C. border a “ray of hope” for tourism operators who previously thought there would be no chance of reopening this summer.

That optimism has dissipated substantially since the announcement of the border opening – and many operators feel that the rug has been pulled from under them.

Hartling said that the lack of action this month has harmed many operators’ faith in the Tourism department, though he noted he doesn’t believe the delay is the fault of department staff who have worked hard to get the industry going again.

“If you have your life savings on the line, and someone leads you to believe there’s an opportunity coming up to invest in that may help you in some measure, and then, at the 11th hour pull the pins out from underneath that, it’s devastating,” Hartling said.

“I’m at a loss of words to convey just how devastating that is.”

Going forward, Hartling said, he hopes these conversations will help to prevent further delays in marketing as the Yukon inevitably opens the borders further.

The Star made inquiries as to why a tourism marketing plan aimed at B.C. residents hasn’t been implemented with the border set to open in just eight days.

Jeanie Dendys, the minister of Tourism, provided an emailed statement this morning.

“We recognize that this year is presenting immense challenges for Yukon’s tourism operators and we hear the frustrations of our Yukon tourism sector partners,” the minister wrote. 

“I was in Dawson City this weekend to meet with the Klondike Visitors Association, which has made great efforts to attract visitors to the Klondike this year. We all are working hard to salvage as much of the tourism season as possible. 

“Tourism and Culture has been actively developing a campaign directed specifically at the BC market and we look forwarding (sic) to launching it very soon.”

Comments (25)

Up 0 Down 0

Klaus G. on Jun 29, 2020 at 11:42 pm

FYI: There is an active National story discussing as to whether the Yukon should close it's borders to Americans completely.

Up 15 Down 13

NickyB on Jun 28, 2020 at 12:04 am

The comment by Klaus is typical of the irrational fearmongering and paranoia fostered by the media and politicians. The number of Covid cases is a meaningless metric and only indicates how much testing is happening. The media and politicians won't tell you that about 85% of those who test positive have natural herd immunity and will never get sick with Covid.

The number of Covid hospitalizations and Covid deaths are the only meaningful numbers. Those numbers have been steadily dropping in every jurisdiction surrounding the Yukon.

Open up the borders. Those who wish to remain paranoid can self isolate and wear masks and gloves for as long as they want; nobody is stopping them. The rest of us who are not govies on paid vacation are getting our lives back to normal.

Up 17 Down 1

Yukoner123 on Jun 27, 2020 at 1:50 pm

I'm a local farmer and was contacted in May by a marketing firm out of Vancouver, hired by Tourism Yukon. They wanted to put a "made in Yukon" box together to sell across Canada and were looking for product submissions. I replied with our availability and prices, and never heard from them again.

Up 30 Down 3

Real on Jun 26, 2020 at 6:25 pm

We’re so tired of this. It isn’t lack of marketing plan it's lack of long term business planning. Not every year is a good year : business 101. I’m tired of tax dollars going out the door like running water to help businesses who didn’t properly plan for possible “ bad year”. If you can’t survive this, oh well, time to go work for govy. On that note, also long overdue for govy crowd to get back to work or get laid off. Tired of the poor service we’re getting from govy workers at home. It doesn’t work and I don’t want my tax dollars going there anymore. Enough with the excuses. Yes times have changed, we’ve adapted, it ain’t gonna be the same, let’s move on.

Up 5 Down 6

Brent on Jun 26, 2020 at 4:30 pm

@the things you think you know: "The Big Red Tent" is a Liberal slogan since the Michael Ignatieff days. Stop trying to steal slogans. You are well on your way to becoming a fine conservative and you get zero points for originality.

Up 23 Down 13

One One-Lesser-Voice on Jun 25, 2020 at 6:11 pm

Why not lower price@, provide good service and use word of mouth to get Yukoners support.

Expecting the tourism department to promote local business in a low year with few visitors is counterintuitive.

Up 28 Down 5

Dave on Jun 25, 2020 at 4:15 pm

The Yukon is kind of like the old days. Nice and quiet.

Up 19 Down 30

Conspiracy Con on Jun 24, 2020 at 5:25 pm

Ha ha ha, what a joke! One of these days soon, I am convinced I will see a comment from one of the few crothchty cons left in the Yukon, saying, "Sandy Silver and the Liberals are responsible for the start of and maintenance of the pandemic"!

Up 52 Down 9

Oya on Jun 24, 2020 at 11:05 am

Yes, mixed messages for sure. On one hand, you have Dr. Hanley saying do not travel to the communities unless essential travel. Then you have Dawson City putting out a campaign inviting all Yukoners to travel there for their vacation. At least one community has closed its store to everyone but community locals. We have Walmart and Cdn Tire never having to close and other businesses in Whitehorse forced to shut down. Then we have Dr. Hanley saying stay home, keep your bubble small. Then there are limits on how many people can be in a group that may or may not be different if you're inside or outside. And all "orders" seem to apply to most Yukoners, but not all - if you look at what goes on outside the Shelter.

Can we trust that the YG covid website information is updated regularly or should we be listening to the radio to get the most recent updates, orders, numbers? Who's on first comes to mind.

One thing is for sure in the tourism sector: YG Tourism should be doing what Dawson City is doing - promoting tourism within the Yukon - at the very least. I see YG doing nothing in this regard. Are all the YG workers in deep depression lamenting their loss of trips to Germany and other exotic foreign places this year? Is anybody even working in the Tourism Dept???

Up 37 Down 17

Yukon Cornelius on Jun 24, 2020 at 10:37 am

Slippery Sandy Silver's Yukon Government couldn't plan its way out of a wet paper bag. Everything that YG does is 'reactive' instead of 'proactive'. Failing to plan is planning to fail.

Up 22 Down 7

YukonMax on Jun 24, 2020 at 10:28 am

At the local Territorial agent last week I experienced some remarks (from the manager) because I was wearing gloves and mask. "You went all out didn't you" the person said." It's is challenging to educate people about something very little is known about.

Up 49 Down 7

yukoner on Jun 24, 2020 at 8:51 am

All I hear from those guys are whine, whine and gimme, gimme and the Gov hasn't done enough, but I do want my gravy train ride, it is my right. TIA is obsolete and should be closed down.

Up 25 Down 8

iBrian on Jun 24, 2020 at 6:34 am

Well to be honest, the second wave has started in Africa, Iran, Turkey. So, how long till it starts coming around? If it’s like the Spanish Flu as the Doctors have referred to it is, then the 2nd wave is what’s going to leave a mark.
People are so skitish, there's no cases in Yukon, and I have seen people alone in their own cars with face masks on. I guess you can’t even trust yourself now.
Anyone in Tourisim who has put all their eggs in 1 basket and counted on the borders opening back up and floods of people coming to the Yukon has made a bad business plan.
Everyone who has gone to work in another field has made a good business plan.
Unfortunately I work in Tourism, or should say worked. Yeah, those were the good old days.

Up 49 Down 11

Yukon Tourist Operator on Jun 23, 2020 at 11:56 pm

The minister of tourism and the minister of health have been conspicuously absent for the past 2 months during this apparently unprecedented economic and health crisis

Way to earn your pay team. A waste of money and an insult to the Yukoners who elected you.

Up 25 Down 12

U. B. Otay on Jun 23, 2020 at 10:26 pm

Mr. Groucho - Knowing the Liberal Government’s tendency for fecking things up... It’s likely that a dozen or more innocent bystanders would be hurt or killed in the incident... The sword manufacturer blamed and some old white would be accused of racism and run out of town...

Up 7 Down 1

Harvey on Jun 23, 2020 at 9:52 pm

They should have had one then.

Up 28 Down 24

Jc on Jun 23, 2020 at 7:56 pm

If the Yukon wants money, open up some mines and gas and oil exploration. That's where the money is. Not tourism petty cash.

Up 26 Down 12

Lost In the Yukon on Jun 23, 2020 at 7:08 pm

Slippery “one term and done” Sandy Silver to Minister responsible for Tourism, bring together a partisan panel of non-experts to study why we have not released the plan at $1,500 a half-day and report back after the fall sitting of the Legislature. Preferably on a Friday before a long weekend.

Up 28 Down 6

Mad Trapper of Riverdale on Jun 23, 2020 at 6:49 pm

I agree with the Minister, Klondike Visitor's Association is doing an incredible job with a skelton staff and limited resources. Too bad her own fully staffed and well funded department has done NOTHING to promote tourism within the Yukon and in BC.

No wonder she compliments KVA and doesn't mention her team. Hope she learned something in Dawson. (Tourism Yukon has a great team by the way and it's not their fault, they just haven't been allowed to do anything).

Up 12 Down 7

Bud McGee on Jun 23, 2020 at 6:46 pm

There appears to be a total lack of coordination between the Province of British Columbia and the Government of Yukon. The border to BC should be opened when BC enters Phase 3 of its Restart Plan. Until Phase 3, Victoria's message is clear to avoid non-essential travel. BC residents have to travel through their province to get to the Yukon. So, the Yukon is essentially contradicting BC by saying it's okay for BC residents to travel within BC to get to the Yukon. How would Yukoners feel if BC told Atlin residents to visit their buddies in Fort Nelson?

Up 5 Down 17

Elite Hotel on Jun 23, 2020 at 5:25 pm

I don't see any plan in place for going to start? We need to put our Hospitality business in the first priority! Green business!

Up 21 Down 5

Klaus G. on Jun 23, 2020 at 5:20 pm

Lots of Covid on either side of us and B.C Proceed with caution.

Up 37 Down 48

Yukon nomad on Jun 23, 2020 at 4:45 pm

Leave it closed!

Up 33 Down 13

What sort of mixed messaging is this? on Jun 23, 2020 at 4:41 pm

Silver has extended the state of emergency. Banff admits that 7 Americans have been ticketed for "touring..."
I'd love for tourism to be back --- but there is clearly a paradox. Is the crisis over? Or is this too early and allows the opportunity for Silver/Hanley to "re-declare" the same conditions all over again.

Damned if you do, damned if you don't. But as Americans are flouting the border regulations and mandatory travel advisories into B.C. --- how is opening the border to B.C. not going allow the virus from the U.S?

It's really disheartening. A B.C. tourist in Banff comes to the Yukon after being in contact with an American carrying covid, is there going to be a check in the Yukon or a mandatory period of incubation?

Will they not be allowed into smaller communities?

Just another haphazard attempt to cater to both sides of the debate. By doing so, you've ruined both groups. Those fighting for closures until the "crisis" is over are about to lose all they've worked for + businesses are about to gain a minimal amount of tourism, while this opening proves that there was no reason to be closed in the first place.

Up 69 Down 17

Groucho d'North on Jun 23, 2020 at 3:21 pm

Isn't this the time the Deputy Minister of Tourism and Culture is supposed to fall on their sword?

Add your comments or reply via Twitter @whitehorsestar

In order to encourage thoughtful and responsible discussion, website comments will not be visible until a moderator approves them. Please add comments judiciously and refrain from maligning any individual or institution. Read about our user comment and privacy policies.

Your name and email address are required before your comment is posted. Otherwise, your comment will not be posted.