By Leigh Armstrong
Though some members of the Skagway Business Association said their business has declined because of external factors, like the train schedule and confusion among passengers, White Pass & Yukon Route officials reminded the store owners and others that more tourists came to town this year than ever before.
WP&YR representatives attended the association’s Sept. 15 meeting to answer questions about this year’s train loading and use of the docks. Vickey Moy, WP&YR executive director of passenger operations, said train operations have actually made it so that more people are dropped off at the depot, which is closer to the shopping district, than any other year.
Due to the fact only one train is able to get directly to the railroad dock this year, some trains have to be completely unloaded at the depot, Moy said.
Rocky Outcalt, one of the owners of the Klondike Doughboy, reinforced that explanation when he said he has watched how the trains are unloading at the depot. He noticed the majority of train passengers get off at the depot, rather than go directly back to the ship.
After the SBA’s Sept. 8 meeting, Mayor Andrew Cremata sent out an email to the group reporting that Skagway sales tax revenues are up by 11 percent vs. last year.. Kristine Harder, owner of Buckshot & Bobbypins, who has taken the lead in speaking at SBA meetings, said that might be due to an increase in tour companies doing business in town.
“We know the town is doing great. We’re just here because we aren’t getting the same amount of people that we got before,” Harder said of retail shops.
With additional ships coming to Skagway, SBA members said passengers might be confused because of a lack of a visitor information center on the docks. Jacqueline Taylor-Rose, WP&YR manager of marketing, said space on the docks is limited.
Cody Jennings, director of the Skagway Convention & Visitors Bureau, said visitors come over to the center at the AB Hall for information about town and there are initiatives in place to increase the awareness of each tourist getting off a boat.
“I haven’t seen any of you (SBA attendees) in my office, but my door is open,” Jennings said.
A plan for a welcoming arch at the end of Seventh Avenue was brought up in the meeting. Harder said the location could push traffic farther up Broadway.
“We’re seeing less and less traffic going to Seventh this year,” Nancy Corrington, owner of multiple Skagway businesses, said.
The Sept. 15 meeting attracted around 35 people, including WP&YR representatives.