When a group of Dawsonites dressed up in Gold Rush garb to meet a Canadian Pacific Airlines riverboat in 1962, they had no idea that this simple one-off publicity stunt would put down roots and that the fledgling Klondike Tourist Bureau would evolve into the Klondike Visitors Association (KVA) about 10 years later.
Today, the not for profit KVA has about $3 million in annual operating revenues, pays out $1.34 million in wages and benefits to the community, employing nearly 80 seasonal workers and some part timers throughout the year. It provides the territorial government with a quarter of the revenue from its slot machine operations ($254,022 this year).
The KVA spends money marketing Dawson City as a tourism destination, an effort that benefits the entire Yukon. It finances its operations primarily with revenues from Diamond Tooth Gerties Gambling Hall.
As attractions, it owns and operates the Jack London Museum and Interpretive Centre, the Free Claim #6 on Bonanza Creek, where visitors can experience gold panning first hand. The KVA also assists the Writers Trust of Canada in the operations of the Berton House Writers’ Retreat, which sees four writers each year spend three months living in the Klondike.
Community Events Casino weekends provide a lot of cash to local not-for-profits, and there are outright donations, in kind or in cash, to a number of other organizations.
The KVA plans and operates many events during the year, taking the lead on the recently completed Spring carnival, called Thaw di Gras, just a few weeks after the snowmobile driven Trek Over the Top, which brings visitors from Alaska in March. It assists in the organization of the annual Commissioner’s Ball, works with the City of Dawson in promoting Canada Day events, organizes the annual Yukon Gold Panning Championships, helps the Tourism Association of the Yukon with its Yukon Culinary Festival, holds the annual Great Klondike International Outhouse Race, the Authors on 8th Literary Walking Tour and Writing Contest and participates in Discovery Days events in mid-August.
The KVA regularly partners with other organizations to carry out projects. The Klondike Sun publishes all the entries in the writing contest. CFYT-fm uses Gerties to hold its annual talent night. The Dawson City Music Festival’s popular lip sync event is held in Gerties. When the Nutcracker is performed here at Christmas time, the KVA makes Gerties available for the show.
In addition, KVA members play a role on various territorial and local committees, such as the Tourism Industry Association of Yukon, the Tourism Marketing Committee, the Klondike Development Organization and the Tr’ondëk/Klondike UNESCO Designation Advisory Group.
At the end of each summer season, the KVA organizes and holds a Klondike Tourism Round-up meeting in which the members of the business and not-for-profit organizations meet to share their impressions of the season just ended and suggest how things might be improved for future years.
If all this were not enough, the staff is busy planning a special Jack London Festival for this June to coincide with the 100th anniversary of his death in November, 1916, at the age of 40. More on that in a later column.