Wedding transportation to moving mushrooms: How some Yukon tourism groups keep afloat

·2 min read
Teena Dickson is the owner of Dickson Outfitters and its division Whitehorse Who What Where Tours. She pivoted her business last summer due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Steve Silva/CBC - image credit)
Teena Dickson is the owner of Dickson Outfitters and its division Whitehorse Who What Where Tours. She pivoted her business last summer due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Steve Silva/CBC - image credit)

Teena Dickson's van, which used to be full of tourists, is now being used to transport volunteers helping with the sandbagging effort, as waters in some Yukon regions reach historic levels.

"I'm just pulling up to my location here," says Dickson, the owner of Who What Where Tours and Dickson Outfitters.

"I see a lot of keen volunteers waiting to jump on the van. They got their shovels."

The effort is part of an initiative organized by the Tourism Industry Association and the Yukon Government.

Both of Dickson's Whitehorse-based businesses usually offer outdoor experiences and tours to people visiting the Yukon. But the COVID-19 pandemic and this year's record flooding have kept tourists at bay.

She is also offering transportation services for day camps and weddings to make ends meet.

"People are still getting married," Dickson said. "Yukon is a wedding destination. We have more wedding transport services booked this year than any other year."

Last summer, she even transported mushrooms.

"Morel season was happening, so we ended up being a buyer and transport carrier," says Dickson. "Our team filled our vans with mushrooms instead of people."

Dickson says she's keeping a positive attitude despite a "rollercoaster" year. She's always looking for new ways to adapt to the pandemic and bring in more business.

"Permits, licensing, insurance, safety, wages, fuel, maintenance on vehicles … It takes a lot to operate a business when you are moving people around and doing it in a safe manner," says Dickson.

Philippe Morin/CBC
Philippe Morin/CBC

Serving locals instead of tourists

Many small businesses are also suffering from a lack of tourists. Ruth Headley is the owner of Bear's Paw Quilts, a quilting supply store in Whitehorse.

Although she's open to locals all year long, almost all of her revenue during the summer comes from tourists.

"In April, my locals quit quilting because they want to be outside hiking, biking, doing what they do outside, and then the tourists come," says Headley.

In the past, Headley had around 30 tourists come into her shop every day. These past two summers she says she's had virtually no tourists.

So, she decided to start offering more quilting lessons to locals.

"This summer, for the first time ever, I've opened my shop to my locals," says Headley. "Then I've been organizing classes on a Saturday, which I have never done in the summer before, just to keep some activity in the shop."

Headley also owned a gift shop in Carcross, but she closed it last year because there were no cruise ships with tourists coming in.

She's still struggling to make a profit, but she's optimistic her business will stay afloat.

"I know if I made it last year, I'll make it this year," she said.

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