Not quite a year ago, Jesse Cooke was in Ottawa to receive the Parks Canada Youth Tourism Entrepreneur Award. He was being recognized for his business, Husky Bus, which he launched in the summer of 2012.
Even then, as he announced at a subsequent meeting of the Dawson City Chamber of Commerce, he was already thinking about the scope of his operation. To define it as a company that provides transport between Whitehorse and Dawson City didn’t describe everything Cooke was doing with Husky Bus. It definitely didn’t describe everything he planned to do in the future.
The future is now.
Cooke saw a market for bicycle rentals in Dawson City, and he now fills that gap. The Husky Bus also makes runs to the airport in its May to October operating season. This is in addition to the shuttle services that most Dawson hotels provide.
Likewise, there was a market for adventure packages. He now offers three different options in the summer, featuring a bus trip to Dawson and Air North flights back to Whitehorse. In the winter, these packages convert to becoming opportunities for viewing the northern lights, and are combined with accommodations and meals at the Aurora Inn.
Winter excursions may include trips to the Tombstones and dog mushing experiences.
A common thread that runs through all of these options is that Cooke partners with existing organizations to provide them. He works with mushers, hotels, the Dawson City museum, Parks Canada, Air North. He provides the customers.
“I think it’s good for everybody,” says Cook. “I just see us all benefitting from it.”
To him it all adds up to an enhanced Klondike experience, and that is the way he is rebranding his business.
“The Klondike experience is meant to reflect all that we do. Husky Bus is going to stay alive, as the transportation link. When you think ‘bus company’ you don’t think of all the other things. You think ‘transport.’ We’re just trying to market ourselves online and worldwide, a little bit more to reflect what we’ve actually been doing.
“Our product line hasn’t changed that much, other than the addition of the winter tours, but the summer product is much the same as last year and I think the new brand will help sell that.”
Presently there are two seasons. From early May to the end of September Husky Bus runs a regular schedule on the Klondike Highway, is available for charters (including trips to Alaska), does tours around Dawson, the goldfields, the Midnight Dome and out to Tombstone Territorial Park.
Things shut down during the lean late fall and early winter months and begin again in February, with the offering of winter excursions out of Dawson, in partnership with the Aurora Inn and any venues that care to participate.
The winter activities were piloted last winter and Cooke says the response was good. There are already more tours booked for this coming winter than there were in the pilot season.
He’s optimistic that the Husky Bus/Klondike Experience operation is going to grow to operate from February to October. That’s a longer visitor season than any business in Dawson currently, and it can’t help but be an eventual benefit to everyone who participates.