'They're so happy': Yukon businesses say tourism is up
Winter tourism continues to be strong in Yukon, according to at least two of the people offering tours in the territory.
Werner Walcher generally guides small groups of visitors. He provides activities directly to them or helps them arrange activities like dogsled trips with other operators.
He said this is the third straight busy winter for him, and it’s become year-round. Summer tourists are followed by the first northern lights watchers in the early fall, with others arriving later for winter activities, said Walcher.
“So there is hardly any time in between the seasons where it’s actually really slow,” he said.
“It just goes from summer into fall and into winter.”
Walcher said the northern lights aren’t the only draw for tourists. Being out in the bush with complete quiet, seeing trillions of stars in the sky and just sitting around a campfire roasting hotdogs are pleasures many people in the world no longer experience, he said.
Even a visit to the Canada Games Centre, Whitehorse’s large recreation centre, is an experience, he said.
“They almost get mad because they don’t have these facilities where they come from and the cities are way bigger,” he said.
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Carcross, Yukon, musher Bertrand Bellencourt said he would be busy right now providing dogsled trips, except there is hardly any snow in the area where he lives and there’s open water on the lakes and rivers that are normally frozen by now.
“I had to cancel like every other day, people were calling me and I had to cancel tours,” he said.
Bellencourt said it appears to be a localized problem. Mushers in other parts of southwest Yukon are able to operate.
He’s now hoping for better conditions in February and March when’s he almost completely booked up for longer, backcountry dogsled trips.
Bellencourt gets clients from most parts of the world. Australians have been the latest nationality to suddenly discover the Yukon and begin coming in larger numbers, he said.
He said the temperature can be a bit of a shock. “They’re really out of their comfort zone… but after four or five days they’re so happy.”
Hotel bookings up
Hotel room bookings are up this January over January last year, said Rich Thompson, chief executive officer for Northern Vision Development, which owns four hotels in Yukon.
Thompson said 2018 was a record year for hotel room bookings, but they are easing off now.
He said while the hotels are generally booked up during the summer months, there’s still capacity in January.