Skagway has a new director for its most lucrative industry: tourism. Longtime Convention and Visitors Bureau tourism director Buckwheat Donahue retired at the end of April. Cody Jennings was hired as the new tourism director out of the pool of 12 applicants. She started in the job this week.
Jennings has lived in Skagway for about 24 years.
“Interestingly, my family brought me here,” she said. “My father was hired by the railroad when the railroad reopened in the late 80’s and that’s how my family ended up in Skagway.”
11 years ago, Jennings started working for the White Pass and Yukon Route Railroad herself. She says she worked in a few different roles before becoming director of retail operations about four years ago.
The railroad is one of the most popular tourism destinations in Alaska. Jennings says her experience with White Pass was one reason she applied to be tourism director.
“And above all else, I love Skagway. I want to celebrate it, and share it and encourage visitors to come experience everything that Skagway has to offer.”
Jennings has a few initial ideas about what she’d like to work on in her new role. One, she’d like to expand the CVB’s social media outreach. And two, she wants to help Skagway grow tourism in the “shoulder season.”
“I think that we have some room to build out our shoulder season,” she said. “We already do the Buckwheat Ski Classic and the road relay in September. I’d like to see us working towards building upon those things. We’ve got a great option here in the summer, what can we do in the off-season?”
And speaking of Buckwheat, Jennings says she knows she has some big shoes to fill. Donahue was tourism director for 16 years. He started events like the annual ski competition and the Skagway Marathon.
“I very much hope that I can make him and this community proud,” Jennings said.
She thinks her experience, and her passion for Skagway and for tourism prepared her well.
“Tourism breathes a life in here. It’s just been amazing being here in the last few weeks, even going into March, just seeing the activity ramping up and the excitement and enthusiasm and fresh faces. [Tourism] just brings excitement into Skagway.”
Jennings first day on the job was Monday, May 11. It’s the second week of Skagway’s cruise ship season, in which 800,000 visitors are expected to visit town.