Anchorage Tourism Sees Summer Gains
Early figures from the 2022 tourist season in Anchorage appear to approach some all-time records. Tourism-related revenue, hotel performance, and visitation all posted year-over-year gains.
Longer Stays, Bigger Demand
Visitor-related local tax revenues are up, according to the city’s tourism bureau, Visit Anchorage. The projection for hotel bed taxes for all of 2022 is 20 percent higher than 2021, barring any significant setback in the last three calendar months. Local car and RV rental taxes through June were up 34 percent.
“Tourism spending reaches all corners of the economy,” says Visit Anchorage President and CEO Julie Saupe. “Tax collections are an encouraging indicator of visitor spending and hint at the wider economic benefits of tourism.”
Hotel performance in Anchorage in some weeks was among the highest of any market nationwide. Demand for hotel nights was nearly equal to 2019, despite the lag in volume. That demand suggests travelers’ length of stay has increased—particularly for independent travelers. Longer stays mean increased local spending, more days to explore, and better opportunities to learn local cultures and meet Alaskans, Saupe says.
Passenger counts at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport are up compared to last summer, though still shy of all-time historical peaks. Through July, the number of passengers screened by the TSA was down 7 percent compared to 2019, which is a smaller decrease than the national average.
Fall and winter have positive indicators as well. There is a strong convention calendar ahead, with First Alaskans Institute’s Elders and Youth Conference, the Alaska Federation of Natives Annual Convention, and Go West Summit to look forward to, among others set for Anchorage.
There is also room to grow leisure visitation outside summer. Hotel demand from October 2021 through March 2022 was up 6 percent compared to the same period before COVID-19. This could be a sign of increased appetite for off-peak visitation, but it might also be a one-time quirk of travel’s return as things reopened.
In either case, Saupe says it’s an opportunity to build more year-round visitation. Visit Anchorage has a strong marketing and promotions program ahead to make the most of the current momentum. This summer Visit Anchorage launched the Anchorage Neighborhood Challenge to help visitors discover a wider breadth of the community and to help locals find new favorite places.
“We have to stay in the game,” Saupe says. “The success of tourism in the last two years was made possible by the investment in tourism marketing and promotions. But other, bigger US and international competitors are getting back on their feet and will be eager to make gains. We have to remain attractive in a crowded, competitive marketplace for travel.”
Along with the rest of the economy, travel and tourism continues to see challenges, including finding enough employees, navigating supply hiccups, and other hindrances.
Anchorage has recovered thousands of jobs in leisure and hospitality since 2020, some of the strongest growth of any sector. Employment is still shy of 2019 levels, though.
“Community investment in tourism marketing and promotions gets results,” Saupe says. “That investment leads to big positive impacts for the community as a whole.”