About Skagway's Economy
Learn about current, future and potential local industries and infrastructure
Located 90 miles northwest of Juneau (Alaska’s capital city) at the northern terminus of the Inside Passage, and at the start of the Klondike Highway. Skagway lies 110 road miles south of Whitehorse, and 14 miles south of the Canadian border. This inter-modal transshipment hub provides a vital link between marine and highway transport into and out of the Yukon and Northwest Arctic regions offering a number of economic opportunities.
Skagway has a number of existing industries and as local infrastructure is upgraded, the potential for a number of new industries is growing.
The visitor industry is the most active segment of Skagway’s economy, providing most of the business income, employment and government revenue. This industry is robust between May and September with an active summer cruise ship season as well as a number of independent travelers coming in via air, ferry and highway. Major attractions of Skagway include: the Klondike National Historical Park, the White Pass and Yukon Railway, the scenery, the close vicinity to the Yukon, connections to Juneau (the State capital) and our connection to the Golden Circle highway route.
The volume of visitors has increased dramatically over the past thirty years. In 1983, summer visits to Skagway numbered 164,000. During the 2018 season, there were over 1.1 million visits to Skagway by cruise ship passengers and crew, highway arrivals, state ferry, train, water taxi and air taxi visits. This adds up to an economy that in 2019 generated over $160 million in taxable revenue. Summer accounts for the bulk of Skagway's tourism season though there are efforts to extend the winter tourism including larger cruise shoulder season, the addition of a Fall and Spring festival and the growing popularity of long-time winter events including Yuletide and the Buckwheat Ski Classic.
1.5 million visitors welcomed
10% increase from 2018 visitor numbers
1,751 jobs provided
$46,545,635 in wages paid
568 business licenses issued
$ 8.9 million in sales tax collected
With a year-round ice-free deep water port, weekly barge service from Seattle, connection to a major highway to the Lower 48 states and Canada as well as a close connection to the Yukon's major international airport, Skagway has been and continues to be an important transportation center in northern Southeast Alaska. Historically, the port of Skagway has been used to ship petroleum products, ore concentrates, timber, fish and general cargo. In 2019 highway modifications were complete to make the South Klondike Highway including widening and straightening areas as well as major bridge replacements to accommodate heavy ore trucks and mining equipment movement.
As the Yukon continues to expand certain areas of its economy including natural resource extraction and a concerted effort by the Yukon Government to expand the freight capacity of the Whitehorse International Airport which will increase its position as a regional freight hub as there are already direct links to Canadian regional cities and Frankfurt, Germany. It will create an increased demand for goods that are being transported from the US and Vancouver BC to the Yukon. With the Port of Skagway as the most cost-effective shipping route north and south, providing a two-day shipping advantage between the Yukon’s rich resource reserves and Pacific Rim and South Asian markets, the port of Skagway remains an advantageous spot for transshipment efforts.
The National Park Service, Municipality of Skagway, Skagway City School District, Dept. of Homeland Security, and the Alaska Dept. of Transportation & Public Facilities make up the majority of the public sector employment which represents close to 30% of the year-round employees. Skagway is home to the Klondike National Historical Park that is managed by the National Park Service. The Park includes the Dyea Townsite, Chilkoot Trail and Skagway's Downtown Historic District. Just outside of Skagway lies the Denver Glacier Valley and Laughton Glacier Valley with trails maintained by the National Forest Service. The State of Alaska's Department of Transportation maintains the Alaska section of the South Klondike Highway year-round to allow for residential and commercial activity to occur.
The outdoor recreation industry is a growing scene in Skagway. With ample hiking trails, beautiful scenery, overnight cabins, the famous Chilkoot Trail, a waterway, mountains ideal for backcountry skiing and cross country ski trails groomed in the winter, the recreational outdoors draws an international crowd to this valley.
Skagway has a rich history of small-time producers who are mainly concentrated in the craftsman/artisan segment of manufacturing. The artist community in Skagway has many very talented people who work in many different mediums. There are ivory carvers, wood and stone sculptors, glass bead makers, jewelers, painters, quilters, hand-painted silk scarves and ties, photographers, native carvers, stained glass makers, and more. This artistic presence allows for a large amount of Made in Skagway products to be sold in town particularly during the tourist season.
Writers, including published poets, authors, songwriters and musicians with a number of CD releases between them and other people with creative energy find Skagway a wonderful community and place to create. The energy here is conducive to stimulation and yet the privacy to continue one’s work is ever-present. The benefit of producing artworks in Skagway is the direct placement of the product in the market allowing the producer greater control over what is produced and how it is sold.
During September of 2016, Alaska Power & Telephone (the local power company and internet provider) completed the first undersea fiber-optic link, AP&T's Lynn Canal Fiber, linking Skagway and Haines to Juneau. This new infrastructure has increased broadband internet speed tremendously from the previous speed of 8MBPS Download and 1 MBPS Upload. With the installation of a fiber optics cable, Skagway has moved from 1 Gigabit in capacity to 7 terabits. This infrastructure upgrade provides new opportunities for improved distance education, enhanced telemedicine, opportunities for at-home jobs and a new opportunity for a technology industry to grow.
Skagway is home to a small commercial fishing fleet, yet our location and strength of our visitor industry provides an opportunity for additional services to the fishing industry. As Skagway looks for ways to grow its economy, the community is evaluating potential upgrades and expansions to the local small boat harbor area. If expansion were to occur, there would be an increase in the vessel capacity of the boat harbor as well as new infrastructure to enhance the commercial capabilities of the uplands around the small boat harbor. New service potential includes: a marine repair facility, cold storage, direct to market sales, fishing trips and excursions, and overseas shipping to Europe through the Erik Nielsen Whitehorse International Airport.