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With Strong Returns in 2011, Visit Anchorage Sets Sights on More New Business in 2012


Anchorage, Alaska – Jan. 19, 2012 – More Alaska visitor industry growth, an increase in bed taxes flowing into the municipal general fund, millions of dollars in editorial travel coverage for Anchorage and an increase in convention sales. Visit Anchorage President and CEO Julie Saupe detailed these and other 2011 accomplishments for Anchorage tourism and looked ahead to 2012 at the annual “Report to the Community” membership luncheon at the Dena’ina Civic and Convention Center on January 19, 2012.

Bed tax collection for 2011 is expected to total $21 million.  Though finalized bed tax figures are not available until February, this would represent an increase of approximately 8 percent compared to 2010. Noting the rebound in bed tax revenue, the resumption of programs deferred or delayed during the economic downturn and increasing consumer confidence, Saupe highlighted many of Visit Anchorage’s 2011 accomplishments, including:

·         More than $97 million dollars in conventions booked, a six percent increase from 2010

·         658 events held in the city’s two convention centers

·         3,000 travel agents trained

·         Editorial placements featuring Anchorage worth $10 million dollars in advertising equivalency

·         More than 1.1 million web visitors to Anchorage.net

Saupe also noted eight arrivals of the ms Amsterdam at the Port of Anchorage, filming of the motion picture “The Frozen Ground” and new domestic and international flights to Anchorage as other highlights of 2011.

The outlook for 2012 is good as well. Visit Anchorage’s long-term web project will officially launch in a few days. Large conventions secured for the city by Visit Anchorage in the upcoming year include Windwalkers International, the American Astronomical Society, the National Defense Transportation Association and the American Indian Science & Engineering Society. Saupe also noted that Visit Anchorage will focus on emerging markets like Brazil, China and India as new sources of visitors to the United States and Alaska.

The Visit Anchorage’s mission is to attract and serve visitors to the Municipality of Anchorage while building and diversifying the Anchorage economy. Visit Anchorage’s marketing functions are funded by one-third of the bed tax collected by lodging facilities. One-third goes to the Municipality’s general fund, and one-third to service the bond debt and operations of the Anchorage Convention Centers. Visit Anchorage receives no state or federal funds. Visit www.Anchorage.net for more information.


Julie Saupe speech as prepared for Visit Anchorage’s Report to the Community on January 19, 2012


I hope that gave you a small taste of what we accomplished last year. What we realized out in the hallway was if you assign an object to each success we had in 2011, we quickly had loads of stuff! Enough to keep Steve and me juggling and fill a whole cart!

We may be the only two in that video with an armload of trophies, magazine covers and toy planes, but there are a lot of people who share Visit Anchorage’s successes. I’d like to recognize our staff, volunteers and members for their hard work to meet our goals this past year.

I’d also like to recognize our dedicated board of directors and our outgoing board officers:

  • Maggie Kelly
  • Scott Habberstadt
  • Todd Heverling
  • John Woodbury
  • And Randy Becker

Thank you for sharing your time and your expertise with us and for contributing to our efforts.

I’d also like to recognize Mayor Sullivan, Mayor thank you for your partnership and support this year.

2011 was year of successes. With the gains of the year, we were able to bring our marketing efforts back to a core level that hasn’t been possible for several years. As already mentioned, we educated more than 3,000 travel trade professionals on Anchorage products. Here’s something you may NOT know: we also nearly doubled the number of travel trade shows we attended in 2011, so we reached many thousands more on the road. We drew 1.1 million visitors to our website, and embarked on a huge web project…more on that later. We brought some huge groups to town in 2011; in fact there were more than 600 events at the city’s two convention centers.

We changed to Visit Anchorage to better connect with potential visitors (not to mention shave 10 minutes off my speech today by avoiding use of “Anchorage Convention and Visitors Bureau”).

We welcomed one hundred sixty-six thousand people in our visitor’s centers. But that’s only part of the story of helping visitors in Anchorage this year. With our community partners, we welcomed new flights, and another summer of the ms Amsterdam. Eight calls brought more than 11,000 passengers to the port of Anchorage. And Visit Anchorage staff and volunteers were there to greet each ship and its passengers and crew. Another major motion picture, the Frozen Ground filmed in Anchorage in the winter of 2011, and the first major production to shoot in Anchorage, Big Miracle, premieres in just a few days.

Convention sales were strong too. Visit Anchorage booked more than $97 million dollars in conventions, almost a five percent increase from meetings sold in 2010. Ducks Unlimited, the group we mentioned in the introduction, has selected Anchorage as the site of its 2016 meeting. Approximately 1,200 of their members are expected to attend the meeting May 15-23, 2016.

We secured more than ten million dollars in advertising equivalency in editorial placements in U.S. and international publications. I’m pleased to say that we started 2012 right, with placements since the first of the year in the Chicago Tribune, Miami Herald, National Geographic Traveler and CNN.com’s travel section.

2011 was a stronger year for tourism in Anchorage than the previous year. In fact, we anticipate that the 2011 bed tax will total 21 million dollars. That’s an eight percent improvement from 2010 collections; and the third straight year of growth.

Keep in mind, finalized bed tax figures will be available in February. As you know, the bed tax is split equally three ways: one third stays with the Municipality’s general fund, one third services the bond debt and operations of the Anchorage Convention Centers and one third goes to Visit Anchorage’s marketing efforts on behalf of the city.

We are excited about the prospects for tourism in 2012. Several national surveys marked modest growth in consumer confidence in the final months of 2011. According to the U.S. Travel Association, while a sustained recovery is still not under way and uncertainty remains, most economists expect to see moderate growth throughout the year. Consumer confidence and spending showed strength over the holidays, and employment numbers continued to improve. Nationally, several studies conclude that U.S. recovery is likely to remain moderate. That said, we expect to build on our successes and make 2012 an even better year for tourism in Alaska and especially in Anchorage.

There's a lot of work that has already been done that goes into that positive forecast for 2012. We’re excited to welcome the Alaska Federation of Natives and the First Alaskans Elders & Youth conference to Anchorage for a second consecutive year. There are some fantastic national groups that will come to Anchorage in 2012 as well, including:

  • 4,000 delegates in May for Windwalkers International
  • 1,200 members of the American Astronomical Society this June
  • 500 for the American Avalanche Association in September
  • 1,200 in September for the National Defense Transportation Association
  • 1,800 in November for the American Indian Science & Engineering Society

We're reinforcing our tourism development programs in emerging international markets, and excited about national efforts that should boost our own efforts in Brazil and China.

Our efforts will expand in Northern Europe, Japan and China. In fact we just wrapped up a China sales mission. We’ll also devote resources to India, an emerging market for travel to the U.S. and a new source of affluent travelers already interested in exploring Alaska. German Speaking Europe will remain prominent in our marketing as well; Condor is increasing the frequency of its nonstop flights between Anchorage and Frankfurt, Germany, giving more Europeans a direct route to Alaska. We’ve set lofty goals for 2012; we continue to aim high. We’re also very pleased with the President’s commitments and statements today to improve the visa process in emerging tourism markets like South America and China. Add to that the first national tourism marketing program in years, Brand USA, and you have a combined effort to draw more visitors to the USA and Alaska.

There’s one big project that took a lot of time and effort in 2011, but which truly is an innovation for 2012: the newly redesigned Anchorage.net.

I certainly consider this one of our big accomplishments for 2011; we put a lot of effort into developing the site. And it’s a project that simply could not have been completed without the gains of 2011. Still, its greatest impact is ahead. Our new website incorporates many features our members have requested to build their own business, responds to the latest technology and trends and will allow potential visitors to find the best information on Anchorage and member businesses quickly and easily. If you’ve been on our website in the last few days, you’ve probably already seen the new design. We’re making final changes right now, and we’ll officially launch the new site in a few days. The website could easily be a standalone presentation today, and lucky for you it is!

For the first public look at the new Anchorage.net, I’d like to introduce a member of the team at Miles Media, our website development company. Miles Media isn’t just a web developer; they’ve made a name for themselves as publishing specialists working with destination marketing organizations like ours. From Visit Florida to San Antonio Convention and Visitors Bureau, they bring a wealth of design experience and industry insight to the new Anchorage.net. and we’ve asked them to share some of their qualifications and Please welcome Jay Salyers of Miles Media.


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