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Despite Dismal Economy, Deep Budget Cuts, ACVB Sees Some Success in 2009; 2010 Outlook: Challenging



ANCHORAGE, ALASKA – Jan. 21, 2009 – The Anchorage Convention & Visitors Bureau (ACVB) met or exceeded many of its performance measures in 2009, in spite of a harsh business environment and deep budget cuts. Bed tax collection is projected to be about $17.5 million, 21 percent less than in 2008 reported Julie Saupe, ACVB president and CEO at the annual “Report to the Community” membership luncheon at the Dena’ina Civic and Convention Center.

“External factors made ACVB’s mission particularly difficult to accomplish in 2009, but with the help of ACVB’s membership, our board, our volunteers, ACVB staff and community partners, many ACVB goals were realized,” said Saupe. “What we don’t know, however, is the extent of business not booked and opportunities lost.”

ACVB’s operations are funded through one third of the bed tax. Another third goes to service the bond debt and operations of the Anchorage Convention Centers and one third to the Municipality of Anchorage’s general fund. To accommodate budget restriction in 2009 and 2010, several cutbacks were made. For the first time in 14 years, ACVB is without a lobbyist. Layoffs took place and ACVB staff duties and responsibilities were reworked to cover nine unfilled positions. Deep cuts were made to national advertising, public relations programs, collateral development, and national and international sales trips and trade show visits, hampering promotional efforts. In addition, more work is now performed online, reducing print and mail runs.

Despite these challenges and changes, ACVB had many successes in 2009:
· More than $97 million in future conventions were sold, 102 percent of goal
· More than $98 million in conventions and meetings were held
· More than 3,800 travel trade received Anchorage and Alaska training, 126 percent of goal
· ACVB’s Web properties received more than 1 million visitors, 100 percent of goal
· Advertising equivalency for Anchorage editorial – national and international – was roughly $9.6 million, 115 percent of goal
· ACVB welcomed 81 new members, closing 2009 with nearly 1,050
· The Dena’ina Civic and Convention Center successfully finished its first full year of operation
· The Anchorage Convention Centers exceeded budget expectations

“These accomplishments are the results of years of hard work and relationship building. We will never know how much greater the return could have been if budgets would have remained in place, nor will we fully understand what the impact will be in 2010 and beyond.”

According to experts at the U.S. Travel Association’s (USTA) Marketing Outlook Forum, 2010 is improving. Leading indicators are up, housing and retail sectors are improving, and there are no signs of inflation; however, unemployment continues to rise and consumer confidence remains shaken. Travel is down in all segments – business, leisure and international. USTA reports that “declines in travel are bottoming out,” meaning that 2010 will be marginally better than 2009, but not a return to previous positive years. Real post-recession growth is most likely up to two years away, according to industry experts. Although booking windows are predicted to remain short, some members have indicated they are already selling 2010 summer business at a better pace than this time last year.

“Despite this news nationally, as an organization, ACVB has budgeted another 10 percent decrease for 2010, based on known redeployments in Alaska’s cruise ship industry. These redeployments mean 117,000 fewer cruise passengers booking activities, shopping local businesses, and staying in Anchorage hotels next year,” said Saupe.

“But even in a challenging climate, this city remains the hub of economic activity for the state and the Alaska travel industry. We are beginning to see signs – early though they may be – of a modest recovery,” continued Saupe.

Several domestic air carriers plan to add service to Anchorage in the months ahead.  The Port of Anchorage will host nine Holland America Line arrivals of more than 1,000 people each in 2010.  There is also optimism that the Travel Promotion Act will soon clear all procedural hurdles in the U.S. Congress and perhaps provide a boost to international travel.

Saupe ended her report with ACVB’s 2010 goals:

· Generate more visitor dollars and build Anchorage’s economy through convention sales, boosting attendance at those meetings, producing new business leads, and boosting editorial coverage.

· Maintain ACVB’s primacy as the expert for marketing the city and as a steward of the community by securing visitors to Anchorage.net, providing top-notch service in our Visitors Centers and quality information in ACVB publications.

· Educate Alaskans on the value of bringing more meetings and visitors to Anchorage, increasing overnight stays in Anchorage, ensuring the continued success of the city’s civic and convention center.

The Anchorage Convention & Visitors Bureau’s (ACVB) mission is to attract and serve visitors to the Municipality of Anchorage as a Destination Marketing Organization (DMO). ACVB’s marketing functions are funded by one-third of the bed tax collected by lodging associations. One-third goes to the Municipality’s general fund, and one-third to service the bond debt and operations of the Anchorage Convention Centers. ACVB receives no state or federal funds. 2010 marks ACVB’s 35th year of bringing business to Anchorage. Explore www.Anchorage.net for more information.

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