By Melinda Munson

The Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) approached the Finance Committee on Oct. 14 and proposed a plan to update the city’s tourism website and branding at an initial cost of $39,500.

“Shedding the tagline ‘Gateway to the Yukon’ is critical in our path forward. As a premiere travel destination, we don’t want to be the gateway to somewhere else. It diminishes our status in the marketplace to potential visitors” said Cody Jennings, tourism director.

Jennings pointed out that the 2021 tourist season will be more important than ever following this summer’s disastrous events, where Canada’s border remained closed and no cruise ships came to Skagway’s port due to COVID-19.

“Our website is our frontline marketing tool,” Jennings said. She noted the last website design was in 2016, making Skagway’s online tourism presence “a little long in the tooth.”Some features of the new website could include a realtime chat box where tourists can ask questions and quickly receive answers and a tool to locate restaurants. The system would encourage virtual interaction, diminishing the need to be physically present in Skagway’s visitor center.

Jennings also noted the municipality seal is hard to market and doesn’t translate well to tourism purposes.

The CPV Board recommended using the agency Simpleview, a website design contractor that focuses on travel destinations. Simpleview’s portfolio includes Norway and Las Vegas. They designed the tourism website and are currently building a website for Haines Borough.

Simpleview would charge the municipality $39,500 for “website design and build with brand identity and logo.” At contract signing, $20,000 would be due and the remaining $19,500 would be invoiced on Jan. 1, 2021. Additional new website costs would include an annual licensing fee of $14,000 and a support plan for $6,000 each year.

According to Jennings, CVB has $25,000 in their fiscal year 2020.5 budget to cover the $20,000 deposit.

If the project is approved, the “shortfall with the tourism budget will be covered with CPV funds,” said Brad Ryan, borough manager.

Finance Chair Steve Burnham agreed with the idea of reimagining Skagway’s tagline.

“The Gateway to the Klondike makes us a truck stop, not the end point,” he said.

The Finance Committee recommended the proposal move forward to the full assembly.

Jennings emphasized that any rebranding would be for tourism purposes and would not affect the municipality’s website or logo.

Mayor Andrew Cremata echoed that thought in his mayor’s report.

“…This project will not alter or change Skagway’s slogan, “Gateway to the Klondike,” as this is a cherished part of our identity. This is a marketing and branding project that should be upgraded and modified every so often as times change and consumer habits evolve,” Cremata said.