Tourism

Tourism

  • I have been involved in Alaska’s tourism industry since childhood
  • We need direct contact with our target market in order to compete with easier to reach destinations down South
  • We must recognize the importance of the independent tour companies to our economy
  • Our economic diversity and stability demand that we have a flourishing tourism industry

I have been involved in Alaska’s tourism industry in various ways since childhood. As a twelve-year-old living in Old Town Valdez in the pre-1964 earthquake days, there were not a lot of job opportunities for me besides working construction for my dad. That job, of course, was without pay. If I wanted to make money, I had to create jobs for myself to provide services that people would be willing to pay for. I established three profitable ventures: king crab “artwork” (assembling boiled crab shells onto a seine or painted plywood and selling them to the tourists for $15); dog sitting for the tourists while they went out on the tour boats; and, carrying bags and cleaning tour buses for Chuck West of West Tours in the evening. I learned at an early age how vital tourism is to many of our small communities and how our small business people especially struggle to survive after even just one disappointing tourist season.

Over the years, my family has been involved in hotel/restaurant, travel agency, fishing charter and gift store businesses. Tourism also provided summer employment for our children. For the past 32 years my wife has owned a gift store with her sister which her sister operates. Before the decline in the economy, the store had three full-time employees and my sister-in-law was starting to plan her retirement. Eventually, she had to let the other employees go and now she runs the store singlehandedly and struggles to make a profit. I am hearing similar stories from others. In recent years, many of our tourist businesses have suffered as much as a 50% decline in revenue. This hit will continue to cause many to close their doors.

Overall, the influx of tourists to Alaska from the cruise ship industry is impressive. However, we must recognize the importance of the independent tour companies to our economy. Most of the independent tour operators are family businesses that have existed for generations and provide that uniquely Alaskan experience that has been the hallmark of the Alaskan tourist’s experience.

Tourists coming to Alaska do not arrive here on their way to another destination as is the case in the Lower 48. Therefore, we need direct contact with our target market in order to compete with easier to reach destinations down South.

Our economic diversity and stability demand that we have a flourishing tourism industry. Alaska is unmatched when it comes to natural beauty, heritage, wilderness, and adventure. We have something very unique to offer visitors from around the world and we need to do much more to promote our state with pride to encourage tourists to visit again and again.