Nearly 20 years in the making, Midnight Sun Excursions will launch this summer in Skagway. It’s been a dream of the Raymie Eatough’s for years, and while it’s a small operation – one woman, one van –she says offering that personal touch is what she hopes will set her apart.
Raymie Eatough came to Skagway in 1997 for a summer job. She was too young to be a tour guide then, but since those first few seasons, she’s carted tourists around for several different companies.
“It gave me the opportunity to do all kinds of amazing things from rafting, hiking, dog sledding, horseback riding … I mean, there’s just such a plethora of exciting tours in Skagway,” she says.
It wasn’t long after she arrived as a Cheechako in Alaska, that she knew she wanted to own her own tour company. And last year she saw a small bus for sale, and thought it’s ‘now or never.’
“And the more I thought about it, I thought why don’t I go for it? I have other friends in town who took that courageous step. Some of them had only been tour guiding for a couple of seasons and I thought ‘Man, I’ve been doing it for 19 years.’ So, I bought the bus.”
Midnight Sun Excursions’ website launched just a couple of weeks ago, and Eatough says she’s already got bookings for the summer.
With more and more guests scheduling trips to Skagway and the surrounding Dyea, White Pass and Chilkoot Trail, Eatough saw the need for more excursion opportunities. And while there are more than a dozen ground tours alone, she says she doesn’t consider herself competition.
“I think the benefit I have is that it is just me and a bus,” she says. “So it’s very personalized and I offer customized tours depending on what the families or groups want to see or what they want to spend their time doing. We can get over 10,000 people a day, so there’s plenty to go around. I don’t feel like I’m in direct competition.”
Being able to zoom away from the throngs of visitors in her trusty van on an intimate tour is something she’s eager start, but first she needs to lure in some more guests. And, she says, learning how to navigate new technology for marketing purposes has been challenging. She’s hoping word of mouth will go a long way.
“Rather than just newspapers, and pamphlets, and rack cards, it seems like most people head for the internet. I just have a lot to learn at this point about marketing.”
Not only is she the marketing manager, Eatough, who is a certified Alaska naturalist, is the head guide, the driver, the van washer, you name it. And while she’s not a born and raised Skagwegian, she’s expecting that her two decades of varying experiences will help set her apart and draw in business.
With just 14 seats on her bus, she’s planning for plenty of small and private tours up the Klondike Highway, over White Pass and into Canada, and out to Dyea.
“There are a few other companies in town that offer personalized, custom tours, but there’s not a lot. There’s only a few option for that in town.”
Eatough says she’s done and seen it all in Skagway, and now she’s ready to share it – in her very own bus.
For more information go to midnightsunexcursions.com.