Whitehorse Daily Star

Image title

Photo by Vince Fedoroff

‘COMPLETE COLLAPSE’ POSSIBLE – Blake Rogers, the executive director of the Tourism Industry Association of Yukon, has spoken with tourism operators who are losing not only their businesses, but their homes. Rogers is seen at this morning’s news conference at the White Pass depot.

‘We need to get real,’ TIA declares

The Yukon’s tourism industry is sending out an SOS but nobody seems to be listening, says the executive director of the Tourism Industry Association of Yukon (TIA).

By Chuck Tobin on September 11, 2020

The Yukon’s tourism industry is sending out an SOS but nobody seems to be listening, says the executive director of the Tourism Industry Association of Yukon (TIA).

Blake Rogers said today the industry needs Premier Sandy Silver and his cabinet to at least come to the table and have a discussion – but they haven’t.

The industry needs to talk about what the future might hold, but there’s been no meaningful communication with the territorial government despite efforts by the industry, he said.

Rogers hosted a press conference this morning to describe what he called an industry in crisis.

A survey of tourism businesses in the Yukon indicated a third of the businesses will fold in the next six months, he said.

Rogers said businesses are hanging on by a thread.

He’s talked to operators who are losing their homes, who are losing their businesses.

“This has been a catastrophic year for tourism,” Blake said. “This is an unprecedented crisis we are in.

“We are looking at potentially a complete collapse of the industry.”

Blake said Yukoners should think about what the territory would look like without the tourism industry, because it’s actually happening.

Tourism operators are the ones who greet the visitors, who roll out the red carpet, who sell the beauty of the territory.

The tourism industry accounted for five per cent of the territory’s Gross Domestic Product in 2019, generating $468 million for the local economy, he said.

Blake said the pandemic has hit the industry like a tonne of bricks, and nobody is getting spared – not the smaller operators nor the bigger ones.

“What does the Yukon look like without tourism, because that is the path we are on right now, that is the trajectory we are on if we do not do anything.”

Blake said national statistics are showing tourism businesses have lost 50 to 80 per cent of their revenue, and in the Yukon, it’s probably closer to 80 per cent.

“If we continue on the path we are on right now, we are looking at a total collapse.”

The industry is feeling like it’s not being heard, he said, adding it’s like being put on hold when you call 911.

The industry needs meaningful communication with the premier and his cabinet – but there hasn’t been any, he said.

Blake said they need some answers about the future will bring, or what it could bring.

The only thing they know about the border closure is what they hear through the media, he said.

Blake said for many businesses, the summer is their bread and butter that keeps the lights on through the winter.

They don’t know what the winter will bring, he said.

Operators, he said, want to know if there are any options that could be explored, such as the provisions the big game outfitting industry has been able to negotiate.

Their clients arrive in Whitehorse and are immediately transported out to their big game camps, where they self-isolate one-on-one with outfitting staff, he explained.

Blake said operators are wondering if they could look at something similar but they don’t know because there’s nobody to talk to about it.

They need the territorial cabinet to come to the table; they need at least quarterly meetings with the premier and his ministers, and they need bureaucrats to be onside.

If there’s no light at the end of the tunnel, then operators may need further financial assistance to get through this, he said.

The financial help government has provided to the entire business community has been a blessing so far, and many tourism businesses wouldn’t be afloat today without them, he said.

Blake emphasized operators don’t want to live on government assistance.

What they want to be able to do is explore ways to reopen safely, he said.

Blake said from the outset of the pandemic, TIA was in full support of the border closure because it was in the best interest of the health and safety of Yukoners.

The health and safety of Yukoners is still foremost with the industry association, but operators are wondering if there are ways to maintain that security while providing some business opportunities, he said.

Blake said they need to have that conversation, at the very least.

TIA’s executive director provided several letters written to the government.

There’s still been no response to a letter written Aug. 24 by Neil Hartling, the association’s chair, to Silver, Tourism and Culture Minister Jeanie Dendys and Dr. Brendan Hanley, the territory’s chief medical officer of health, he said.

He said the association needs the support of all the political parties.

“We need a financial commitment if we do not have border openings because we are literally strangling every tourism business in the Yukon,” he said.

“We need to get real; we need government to get real; we need bureaucrats to get real because this is real.”

Comments (30)

Up 5 Down 15

Andy on Sep 16, 2020 at 1:22 pm

@Max Mack
6 months and hasn't killed a Yukoner.....BECAUSE OF THE RULES/RESTRICTIONS WE CURRENTLY HAVE IN PLACE. That's good news as much as you want to twist it to say the Libs are 'stealing your freedum'

Anyways, head over to YuWin, there are currently hundreds of jobs available.

Up 17 Down 5

Max Mack on Sep 16, 2020 at 12:45 am

@Andy

Can't take a challenge, Andy? Have to resort to ad homonyms? Are you a Liberal party insider?

Check the stats for yourself. Employment is down, retail sales are down, tourism is down, GDP is down. Hundreds of businesses have closed their doors. The only thing saving the Yukon from collapse is the massive levels of government employment and CERB flowing to thousands of workers.

It's been 6 months, and the COVID still hasn't killed a single Yukoner.

Up 14 Down 2

Harvey on Sep 15, 2020 at 5:38 pm

I see that TIA is doing well enough to advertise for 1/4 $million dollars worth of new jobs.
Cry me a river and keep your Covid19 to yourself.

Up 24 Down 5

TMYK on Sep 15, 2020 at 1:10 pm

Every place is requiring a 3 night stay to rent right now. That's just insane. It's like they don't want people to rent and just want some of that government bailout money. We need to stop pretending that tourism is an industry. It's just icing on the cake. Most of the money doesn't even stay in the Yukon.

Up 18 Down 9

Andy on Sep 15, 2020 at 10:54 am

@ Max Mack
If you ain't working right now it's because you choose not to. I don't know anyone not back to work and many of those never stopped working through this whole thing. The economy is churning along just fine despite you crying the sky is falling.

Whistebend houses continue to be sprouting up, highway construction moving along, mining still balls to the wall, all the shops are full of people. Bars and restaurants open. Travel to the other territories and BC open. Walk down Main Street right now and it looks just like any other September day with people going about their business.

Maybe get off the CERB/couch and get back to work.

Up 33 Down 2

Dentist on Sep 14, 2020 at 10:36 pm

Believe it or not, there was a time when TIA actually helped private tourism related businesses . A time when a majority of the members were business owners. Sure, there was the odd government employee floating around, The minister always gave an upbeat speech. The organization then was tasked with supporting the Private tourism sector and it did a good job. That was then.

When I bowed out about 20 years ago, the majority of the people attending the annual Convention were government people who were getting paid to attend, and whose registration was paid for by the government. Very few of them had to deal with a bottom line. As the years rolled by, the membership gravitated towards Societies and Not for profit groups until they made up a majority of the membership, while the private business owners, particularly those who were small Mom and Pop operations were left behind.

Up 33 Down 3

Mad Trapper of Riverdale on Sep 14, 2020 at 8:48 pm

Tourism Industry experiencing mass lay-offs, wage cuts and closures while the bloated Yukon Government tourism department is completely unaffected and fully staffed even with no tourists. How does the Premier justify this ?

Up 17 Down 10

Lolololol on Sep 14, 2020 at 3:34 pm

Anyone catch the radio? Looks like Blake the Liberal roguester got slapped by the government and had to take back all this schmutz he took to the paper. Hahahahaha. He got in trouble. It’s hard being a Liberal AND having to represent an industry.

Up 43 Down 0

steve on Sep 14, 2020 at 2:02 pm

I find it interesting when I wanted to come home and rent an RV (only one RV place reduced their rates) this summer the cost was not much different than last year at the same time. So these RV companies said they are all rented out, but here they are crying the blues on facebook. Then I see them post $99 September a night from $200 for July. They would have been smarter to reduce their rates to attract locals instead of thinking we would pay the same rates as tourists. Build your local base and work from there you fools.

Up 26 Down 11

Max Mack on Sep 14, 2020 at 1:14 pm

@ Andy
Just curious what risk level is acceptable to you to shut down the economy with all the related social and health implications of COVID restrictions?
Zero?
Cause if that's your target, we will be on lockdown forever.

Up 26 Down 18

Andy on Sep 14, 2020 at 11:28 am

Just curious what TIA would say is an acceptable number of infections or deaths of Yukoners should we open the barn doors to make them money. 1? 100??

Up 33 Down 12

Max Mack on Sep 14, 2020 at 10:59 am

The Liberals focused all their grease for the big players, like NVD and Air North. Rich Thompson and his ilk are well taken care of.

Up 26 Down 3

Oya on Sep 14, 2020 at 9:35 am

@ Nataschaa You are so right about the Enterprise Trade Fund. What is the Dept of Ec Dev actually doing for Yukoners (that are not part of NVD)? It's been six months now since the bomb dropped. Have there been any changes made to the Ec Dev programs yet to address these issues? What do they do all day?

Up 26 Down 2

Denis on Sep 13, 2020 at 11:50 am

I have lived and hunted in YT for many years. Unfortunately age and health has caught up to me. My adult children & grand children hunt and would love to go to one of those hunt camps. It seems they are reserved for those deep pocketed non residents. If we all would just give a little, many locals could afford a similar experience in our own backyards. TIA's full houses at reduced rates would become successful. Heck, I might also be able to help with cash gifts for B'days, Xmas etc. It would be great to give a gift that can be used & appreciated. Cud become an annual affair.

Up 58 Down 3

iBrian on Sep 13, 2020 at 7:35 am

Tourism is a business. I see a fair amount of “tourisim operators” who took the CERB, and turned down other work. Tourism operators who went to work, in other industries, have the drive to survive.
Sorry. 1/3 of business period will collapse. Over leveraged, over extended over financed.
The Yukon is the destination, so as long as the rivers flow, the trees stand and our rich history is alive. Once the borders open up, tourism will be on again.
Sorry. But a industry that really only has a 3 month window of operating doesn’t get bailed out. What do the operators do the remainder of the year?
I am a tourism operator, I work 9 months a year in 3 fields of tourism. So, I am one of these operators. Except, I didn’t take a payout, I picked up tools and went to work.
Like grandpa used to say, “Work where there's work to stay alive” and I never phoned or emailed to complain about not doing what I love to do for work. Instead to support my family I took work where there was work. Made all my payments on time.
It’s a Darwinian Law, threw natural selection the strong will survive.

Up 37 Down 15

Matthew on Sep 13, 2020 at 6:09 am

Isn't it clear people? Sandy doesn't care about us. He only cares about his high salary that hasn't been affected or even discussed. Let's defund the politicians! I wonder how different politics would be if they only got paid what the avg yearly salary was in Canada.. my oh my things would look SO much different.. want to know the next steps? Read what UN and WHO have planned! Or research Event 201. P.S it's not good. Heard of Hunger Games?

Up 22 Down 2

Nataschaa chatterton on Sep 13, 2020 at 12:08 am

It is unfortunate that the government does not shift some of its grant programs to support local businesses to build locally based products. The government needs to move quickly to alter its enterprise trade fund that once supported businesses to market abroad. Business need to transition quickly and so do government. Make the grants directed towards supporting business to grow a local economy.

Up 26 Down 42

Dwight Howard on Sep 12, 2020 at 8:59 pm

Who would want to come to the Yukon on a vacation? The scenery isn't any better than BC, but you get to freeze your dreiere off, get eaten by bugs and experience sub-par service and food in restaurants. Yukon "tourism" is an illusion! Lol

Up 30 Down 8

The Hammer on Sep 12, 2020 at 6:09 pm

Tourism has been hit all over the world. What would Yukon be like without tourism? What would it be like if half the population came down with COVID? Opening the gates to tourism is like opening the gates to COVID hotspots, come to the Yukon, we are COVID free, don't forget your travel insurance. This is reality, you can't have your cake and eat it too, as the saying goes. What can we say? Even without, or with limited travelers, the town is busy, the shops have customers.
Reality: Yukon has been a boom and bust economy since the gold rush. if you think getting into Yukon is a problem, think of those who want out as winter approaches so they can be a tourist in a tropical paradise. And are the tour business people snowbirds? Between a Rock and a Hard place. Check out BBC 1983 YouTube 'The Gold Rush LIne' , When White Pass shut down, the boom and bust cycles, and survival. This is not new.

Up 22 Down 14

Nathan Living on Sep 12, 2020 at 1:28 pm

Tourism is down with covid but things will pick up next year.
We cannot stimulate businesses with few clients. They have to cut back and weather the storm. The gov has and will continue to help the tourist workers who have lost their jobs.

Up 65 Down 20

Groucho d'North on Sep 12, 2020 at 9:16 am

Our local cohort of Liberals are waiting for the Ottawa gang to tell them what to do...like they have been doing since March. Don't expect any leadership from Silver- he doesn't know how.

Up 41 Down 32

Wes on Sep 12, 2020 at 8:36 am

Mining workers were declared essential, why not tourism clients?
Big game outfitters negotiated a deal. Well, we know who gets the Govs ear.
Maybe if the TIA wore stetsons and stomped their feet and yelled more.

Up 13 Down 40

Real on Sep 11, 2020 at 8:51 pm

...and the cases are pouring in from Quebec to BC. Hunting is almost over and it's only for Canadian clients. No need to keep the pandemic alive just so a total shutdown is invoked again....and repeat....sad to say but the industry is likely headed for a correction just as many have lately and all through modern history.
Wonder if Blake is buddies with The Conservatives? Laying it on pretty heavy with the blinders on there. Polispeak.

Up 59 Down 22

Deja Vu on Sep 11, 2020 at 6:25 pm

Here we go again, TIA whining and complaining riding the gimme gimme train. Enough!

Up 75 Down 6

EM on Sep 11, 2020 at 6:08 pm

Most operators don’t cater to Yukoners (pre-pandemic) and almost none offered ‘Yukoner rates‘ when I was calling around to book staycations this summer. I think those businesses really missed the boat as having locals stay/visit/experience those places would have created hundreds of local ambassadors who would send future buisness their way and at the same time brought money into the tourism sector. Taxpayer handouts should not be the de facto solution here.

Up 46 Down 8

You do what? on Sep 11, 2020 at 5:56 pm

Been in the industry for over 30 years.
Never even heard of ya.

Ya think people need help finding the Yukon? It was a destination since the 1800's

Up 37 Down 12

Martin on Sep 11, 2020 at 5:16 pm

Good luck with that. I wonder where did it go all the monies JT sent . .... opps!,... I know, sorry, wasn't for us.

Up 57 Down 28

bingo on Sep 11, 2020 at 5:11 pm

Henley "etal" are turning the Territory into a joke for the working person. We have ZERO cases, how can we catch it if nobody has it. Perhaps these Liberal bobbleheads could start a private enterprise just to see how awful things really are.

Up 50 Down 18

JC on Sep 11, 2020 at 4:52 pm

One more thing, I just read the other day - not in the left wing media though, that the average family is paying 43 percent of their salaries in taxes. And that's just the beginning. JT doesn't think that's enough. He will give you more information on that when he presents his next budget.

Up 57 Down 29

JC on Sep 11, 2020 at 4:47 pm

Tourism is great, but it's not the salvation of the Yukon economy, it's mining, like it's always been. But don't expect the Lieberals to come to the table when they think they are the gods of the nation. They don't care how many businesses go belly up as long as they believe that ridding the world of a bit of carbon is their their greatest concern. Anyway let the younger ones fight it out with them, just don't touch my pittance of my OAS and CPP. I've said this before and I will say it again, vote liberal now and pay the terrible price later. Good luck Millennials.

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.