Tourism as a Resource in Peripheral Regions: ‘Toe-rism’ in Dawson City, Yukon Territory, Canada

Elizabeth Cooper, Michelle Spinei, Alix Varnajot

Research output: Contribution to conferenceConference abstract for conferenceResearchpeer-review


From a Western perspective, the Arctic has been considered as a peripheral region, far, dangerous and expensive to reach. Nevertheless, tourism has become a major reason for human presence in the Arctic, which is known as a place of adventure for visitors who seek pristine landscapes and wildlife as well as unique experiences in remote locations. Tourists can partake in thrill-inducing activities such as dog sledding, car ice-driving, wildlife safaris, or walking on a glacier. In Dawson City, located in Canada’s Yukon Territory, another thrill-inducing activity has grown in popularity—drinking a shot of alcohol with a dehydrated human toe in it, affectionately named the ‘Sourtoe Cocktail’. This tradition, which sprung from a local legend, is a hybrid of local custom, tourist bucket-list item, and promotional item for Yukon DMOs.

In this article, we deconstruct the practice of the ‘Sourtoe Cocktail’ using Leiper’s (1979) tourism framework of human, industry, and geographical elements in order to analyse tourism attraction making in this peripheral area of northern Canada. We suggest that the continuation of the ‘Sourtoe’ tradition is contingent upon a collaboration between tourists, locals, and industry. These stakeholders co-create a different kind of Arctic experience which works to lend Dawson City a unique place brand that draws upon its wild Klondike

Gold Rush past. Gold mining is still the main economic driver in Dawson City, but tourism offers promise as a secondary industry. In contrast to the typical image of a frozen, empty, and inhospitable circumpolar North, we argue that societies and landscapes in the Arctic increasingly allow for an emerging diversity of tourism activities. The future of Arctic tourism may be located in ‘non-Arctic’ activities that celebrate the uniqueness of place and highlight local colour in Polar Regions. In this way, it is envisioned that ‘peripheral’ places will increasingly acquire stronger local identities, which no longer rely on their ‘peripheral’ nature.
Original languageEnglish
Publication date2019
Number of pages2
Publication statusPublished - 2019
Externally publishedYes
EventNordic Geographers Meeting 2019 - Trondheim, Norway
Duration: 16 Jun 201919 Jun 2019
Conference number: 8


ConferenceNordic Geographers Meeting 2019

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