The Yukon territory is the most accessible Arctic and sub-Arctic location on earth. Just a two-hour flight away from Vancouver, BC, or a five-hour direct flight from Ottawa, this fantastic, remote wilderness is just waiting to be explored, yet when it comes to booking an Arctic tour, many Canadians are going elsewhere. But for those in search of the wonders of the arctic, a flight to Greenland, Iceland, Finland or Norway doesn’t have to be the only solution.
“We suffer a little bit from a lack of awareness, and Canadians typically look to destinations outside of the country for their long-haul vacations,” said Robin Anderson, marketing manager for Europe/UK, Tourism Yukon. “Research shows that Canadians have a great perception of the Yukon but there wasn’t a strong enough sense of the Yukon as being warm and welcoming, and that there’s lots to see and do here.” Frigid temperatures and utter remoteness paired with inaccessible roads and airways tends to be the most common misconceptions when it comes to travelling through the Yukon. But despite its Arctic roots, the Yukon is actually very warm during the summer season.
photo credit: Mark Kelly Photography
“Summer is great because we’re anywhere from 18 to 25 degrees and the sun never sets in May, June or July,” Anderson said.
With the autumn season creeping closer, the berries ripen, the Northern Lights come out, and warm summer days still linger, while crisp nights take their place.
“The incredible thing in the Yukon is that because we’re so far north, the light changes dramatically from season to season,” Anderson said. "From October to the end of December daylight wanes and we get about five hours of bright sunny, short days, but by the end of January with the winter solstice we’re getting an extra 10 to 15 minutes of sun, and by the end of March we’re back to those 15 hours of sunlight again. The light quality is really spectacular and it’s warmer once March and April come. We encourage Canadians to come anytime, and no matter when you come, you’ll have a spectacular experience with dramatic skies, beautiful colour, and just a very relaxing time spent outside.”
Yukon’s airline, Air North, is currently operating flights several times a week, with flights running direct from Ottawa. The service has significantly opened up the Ontario market, which has been a challenge for Tourism Yukon in the past. Air Canada also operates year-round through the Yukon, while WestJet flies out from May to October. “A flight out of Vancouver [to the Yukon] is less than $500 right now and Air North has some really great deals out of Ottawa around the same price range, so it’s very accessible and easy to get to,” Anderson said. “We’re also celebrating our 75th anniversary of the Alaska Highway this year, and that opened up the north to travellers in a way that allows more Canadians to drive in, rather than just fly.”
photo credit: Best Made Company / Jason van Bruggen
An interest in Canada’s indigenous culture and heritage, complimented by a desire to immerse one’s self in untouched wilderness are the two biggest draws for tourism to the Yukon.
“There’s an unbelievably deep culture here and people are really in tune to that aspect in a big way,” Anderson said. “We have more working artists per capita than any other province or territory in Canada. Whether it’s going to one of 30 museums around the territory, going to an aboriginal cultural festival where you can experience live drumming and dancing, or bead making, you can see demonstrative culture, heritage and regalia all around you. We’ve got this incredible explosion of culture happening right now; it’s so exciting and it really gives us something very special to add to the things that people already knew the north to be: great beautiful scenery, natural environments where wildlife is undisturbed, and increasingly a fantastic First Nations cultural product for the tourism market.”
Tourism Yukon works closely with the Yukon First Nations Culture and Tourism Association to promote the First Nations-oriented product available in the area. There are six aboriginal cultural centres situated in the Yukon and each of the First Nations in the community have built a centre to connect and share their local culture with visitors.
“From an Aboriginal tourism side, we’re very advanced compared to some of the other provinces and territories,” Anderson said. Eleven of the 14 First Nations groups here in the Yukon have settled their land claims and are now operating under their own governments, and have their own economic development arms that they’re now investing in product here. What we’re seeing is an absolute explosion of the First Nations operating under their own self determination of self government, and the Yukon First Nations Cultural Association assisting the developed product being put on the market.”
Of the travellers frequenting the Yukon, Anderson explains that the targeted demographic are those between the ages of 45 and 65, and they are categorized into two distinct groups.
“We call them cultural explorers and authentic experiencers; these are learners who like to learn through experience when they travel,” Anderson said. “They’re adventurers in spirit and at heart, and we do have an adventure travel market here, but by and large, the types of travellers that are coming here are samplers. As our target segments are learners, culture is one of those things that excites them and we know that, and connecting them with our aboriginal culture is a big part of their vacations when they come here.”
Between the cultural aspect and the wilderness backdrop, the Yukon is truly a wonder to behold. With some of the oldest and largest animal migrations left in North America, mountain peaks soaring upwards of 19,000 feet, and the largest icefield in the world outside of the polar regions, Arctic paradise is within reach for all Canadians. “With all of that, there’s this wonderful sort of well-rounded vacation that people experience here,” Anderson said. “The Yukon is a touch of exotic within Canada and we think more Canadians should come and experience it.”