When Klondike Visitors Association (KVA) executive director Gary Parker accepted the Tourism Industry Association of Yukon’s (TIAY) Innovator of the Year award on behalf of the KVA, he couldn’t manage to restrain himself.

“I think we’ve started something new and exciting. And what’s new about Dawson leading the way?”

When it comes to tourism, what indeed?

I have already written here of how high-end tourists began visiting the Klondike as early as 1898. We know that visitors began to seek out Robert Service’s Cabin as early as 1917.

The seeds of the organization that is the KVA were planted and began to grow in 1952, fully a decade before the territory began to pay much attention to tourism.

Perhaps Whitehorse was still in shock from learning it was about to have the burden of being the territorial capital thrust upon it. As our current mayor is fond of saying, we got rid of the politicians and bureaucrats and got to keep the history and the better buildings.

The Klondike Tourist Bureau was organized not long after Canadian Pacific Airlines revived riverboat service for tourists from Whitehorse to Dawson. The service didn’t last, but the organization did, and has kept its founding mandate in view ever since.

The latest innovation is something that won’t seem too startling to anyone who has ever used a computer to plan a vacation trip. There are several website services which allow you to book your hotel, rent a car and plan your activities all in one place.

Now there’s one that allows you to do almost all of that for Dawson City.

You can’t rent a car because there’s no agency for that here, though there have been a number of attempts, but the other items are within your grasp.

The need for a one-stop booking shop was identified in a study undertaken jointly by the KVA and TIAY and reported on in 2009, when the latter organization last held its spring annual general meeting here.

It was fitting that the actual system should be launched as a pilot project during the 2011 TIAY AGM weekend.

The KVA already has a website (www.dawsoncity.ca/ – which is Mark 2, actually – they do try to keep up), on which it sings the praises of Dawson tourism, brags about its own attractions (and lots of others) and gives prospective visitors a way to enquire for more of the old-fashioned paper copy sort of information.

It also links to the Yukoninfo.com website, where a person can either view or download that handy PR Services booklet about Dawson.

Now, however, the front page of the KVA’s website contains a box that says “Book Now” and leads you to pages where you can select and book your hotel room, select a package of activities (Goldrush theme or Arts and Culture theme), or assemble your own package from the 21 activities that are currently listed and described.

The whole thing ends up in a shopping cart (à la Chapters/Indigo, Amazon.ca or Expedia and Travelocity) and you pay with your credit card.

This system is the first of its kind in the Yukon and it’s still in trial mode, so not everything is in place yet.

Most hotels have signed on and several are currently showing. The rest still need to assemble their information and get it posted.

Over the next two years the information and options available on the site will no doubt grow by leaps and bounds.

But the process has begun, and tourism promotion in the Klondike has moved into the 21st century.

After 32 years teaching in rural Yukon schools, Dan Davidson retired from that profession but continues writing about life in Dawson City.

After 32 years teaching in rural Yukon schools, Dan Davidson retired from that profession but continues writing about life in Dawson City.