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Tourism Numbers Stable

Journalists visit or inquire about state in high numbers

At a conference in Talkeetna in mid-September a gentleman from the area told me tourism numbers were down at his tourism-related business. At a seminar in Anchorage, Dee Buchanon, director of marketing for CIRI Alaska Tourism, told me more media than ever was here to tour and write about the Alaska experience.

It made me curious what has happened this year in the tourism industry. So I made a couple of calls: Jack Bonney, public relations manager for the Anchorage Convention and Visitors Bureau; and Ron Peck, president and chief operating officer for the Alaska Tourism Industry Association. Here’s what I learned.

“I can tell you anecdotally we’re hearing from many businesses that it has been a solid summer for Anchorage,” said Bonney. “Hotel occupancy is up compared to 2010, with rates remaining stable or even increasing; that’s just one facet of the industry, but provides some insight into the summer.”

And as far as journalists are concerned, he confirmed many were visiting Alaska. “Every year, dozens of journalists visit Anchorage researching assignments or future stories on Alaska,” he said. “When you include the number of journalists researching stories from afar, and the number of journalists we pitch possible story ideas to remotely, that number is much greater.”

Peck agreed. “You know, I can tell you from an ATIA standpoint, we impacted more than 500 journalists (this year), assisted them in fact-finding, statistics research, where to go, and in some cases travel arrangements ….” The good news: this will have a $40 million to $50 million estimated impact due to editorial articles coming out now and in the future.

Peck added tourism was up or down statewide, depending on how you looked at it: Cruise ship passengers were up slightly, with a 60,000 projected increase for 2012. International and independent air travelers were up, especially tourists from China, India, Japan, Korea and Europe, in part thanks to Condor, Korean and Japan airlines. The number of Alaska Highway and ferry travelers were down, due to the high price of gasoline, said Peck.

But the future looks rosy. The State Legislature, in the 2010 session, reduced the cruise ship tax, which is increasing the number of ships coming to Alaska in 2012.  Funding also was increased by the Legislature for tourism promotion, and a portion of that impacted ATIA’s public relation and media efforts.

“We believe we’ll see an overall increase in visitor numbers for this year,” Peck said. “I want to reinforce that we appreciate the Legislature for promoting tourism (through decreased taxes and increased funding to tourism programs).”

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