The Skagway Economy

Skagway’s Business Climate

For a snapshot into the current “pulse” of the  business community and the economy in Skagway, read the 2019 Skagway Business Climate Report.  This report, prepared by Rain Coast Data, comes from an analysis of Skagway’s survey data from the Southeast Conference‘s Business Climate Survey completed every year in Southeast Alaskan communities.

SDC’s efforts to strengthen Skagway’s year round economy are based on stabilizing and expanding the sectors of the economy that currently provide year round jobs alongside diversifying into new areas. Efforts in particular include establishment of our Small Business Resource Center (SBRC) which provides assistance to local small business owners, or potential business owners, by connecting them to valuable resources and providing training and workshop opportunities for entrepreneurial enrichment. For further information on SDC’s SBRC, visit our Business Resource Center webpage.


Tourism is the mainstay of the Skagway economy. This sector provides the majority of the income for the residents and out-of-area businesses that operate in Skagway for the summer tourist season, May through September. It is during these 5 months that Skagway sees over 1,000,000 visitors who contribute over $100,000,000 in taxable revenue. This revenue generated provides over $5,000,000 in City revenue, through a 5% city sales tax.

Although summer tourism is healthy, the Municipality and SDC are consistently looking to expand winter tourism opportunites. Skagway has first class cross country ski trails within 45 minutes of town. These maintained and groomed trails feature the Buckwheat Ski Classic, an International Cross Country Ski event, each year in March. Skagway’s backyard also is host to spectacular back-country snowshoeing, skiing and ice climbing. For those with a mechanical mind there are unlimited miles of snow machining in pristine country to be explored as well. In all of these activities the number of participants is low and therefore a true wilderness experience is available to all.

Skagway’s amazing history has been the focus of tourism for much of the last 100 years. An area that has been overlooked is its incredible natural beauty and wilderness. With ecosystems ranging from the marine to the alpine the accompanying range of experiences is vast. From whales to mountaintops: the adventures available to all are as immense as the landscape.


With road, marine and air access Skagway is well positioned in its location to be the major transshipment hub for Southeast Alaska and the Yukon Territory, Canada. With new efforts to expand these links, Skagway now offers opportunities to the West Coast, Pacific Rim, South Asia, and Europe.

Skagway is one of three communities in Southeast Alaska with road access to the Lower 48 states and to Canada: a distinct advantage for any business that requires access to outside markets. The Klondike Highway meets the Alaska Highway 100 miles away and it is maintained  and open year round.

A weekly barge service carries goods into and out of Skagway and the Yukon to Seattle. The AML barge facility, as well as two docks capable of holding three large cruise ships or four cargo vessels, provide the basis for Skagway’s freight capacity.

Two air taxi companies provide regular, year round air service between Skagway and Juneau (45 Minutes). The Alaska Marine Highway System (AMHS) provides vehicular and passenger ferry transport, year round between Skagway and most of the Southeast communities and onward to Prince Rupert (British Columbia) and Bellingham, Washington. Service in the summer is 7 days per week whist in the winter months service continues at a reduced rate of 2-4 times per week. During the summer tourist season (May-Sept.) there are regular daily fast ferry connections to Haines and Juneau.

Waterfront and Industrial Land

The Port of Skagway is a deep water and ice-free port that serves as a year round transshipment and transportation hub between Alaska and Canada. Port commerce and activity still supports the Skagway economy. Inbound are general cargo, petroleum products, and 700-800,000 cruise ship passengers, while outbound are general cargo, and in the past mineral ore concentrate and logs. Skagway’s port houses three major docks (5 large cruise ship capacity), bulk cargo terminal, AMHS ferry terminal, barge ramp and storage facility, and a small boat harbor which currently holds 140 boats up to 40′ in length.

The small boat harbor is currently undergoing the third phase of a multi-phase upgrade and expansion project. The first phase included the construction of a new seawall which was completed in May 2005. Phase Two was the development of an inter-modal transportation facility in conjunction with a sea walk. This creates a less congested and more aesthetic approach from the Railroad Dock to the city center.  Phase Three includes the construction of a partial wave barrier (to protect the small boat harbor) and future phases are planned for further harbor expansion. This expansion will increase the vessel capacity of the boat harbor as well as provide the infrastructure to enhance the commercial capabilities of the uplands around the small boat harbor. These new opportunities may include a marine repair facility, ice plant, cold storage, fish processing plant, and any other waterfront related activity.

There are over 150 acres of industrial and waterfront land available for development in Skagway. All of this land is within 1.5 miles of the waterfront itself and is easily accessed by road and power. The City of Skagway is interested in providing what incentives it can for the development of these lands. For more information, contact SDC.

Public Sector

The public sector in Skagway is represented by all levels of government. The federal government employees are represented by the US Postal Service and the National Park Service. The state’s Dept of Transportation has employees with the Alaska Marine Highway System and the road maintenance crews. The City of Skagway and the Skagway School District are the local government employers and together are the largest public employer in town.

Skagway’s seasonal tourist economy has an interesting dynamic on public versus private employment when observed on an annual basis.  From May to September the private sector dominates the employment arena with around 80% of the jobs. This is due to the influx of seasonal businesses and their employees who make up the bulk of Skagway’s private sector. In the months from October to April there is a dramatic decrease in the number of private sector jobs resulting in a drop to only 60 -70% of the jobs. This greater dependence on the public sector during the winter is a stabilizing factor in Skagway’s otherwise dynamic economy.


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 art works 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.