Ron Peck, Past President and COO of the Alaska Travel Industry Association was among those updating the Industry Outlook Forum in Homer on the State of the Tourism Industry in Alaska.
Peck told those in attendance that while the state has continued to see steady decline in highway visitors, however, non-cruise visitors to the 49th state has rebounded to near peak levels. Peck said that the summer of 2012 saw 1.58 million visitors, non summer months, October to April saw roughly 25,000 visitors. Peck said that the tourism industry will see future challenges due to cruise waste water discharge legislation previously passed via voter initiative. As we’ve reporter Governor Sean Parnell has forwarded legislation in Juneau to treat cruise ships like any other coastal municipality. Peck did say that since 2011, the state has seen an increase of 110,000 cruise visitors.
Peck also noted shrinking long haul visitor demographics, as well as, sport fishing management changes as challenges to the state’s tourism industry moving forward.
Peck said that the state does have great opportunities for tourism growth in international markets, noting an announced increase in directs flights to the state from Iceland Air. Increase for the baby boomer generation seeking a down time oriented vacation, as well as, long haul motorcycle visitors, and multi-generational travel including cruise travel, could be a great tourism marketing market for Alaska, and the Kenai Peninsula.
Pect said that last year the tourism industry accounted for $117 million dollars in non-sales tax revenues.
Cathy Dunn Tourism Marketing Manager with the Alaska Department of Commerce, Community, and Economic Development noted some of the efforts taken to market the state, with thee-consecutive years of higher funding for such efforts by the Parnell administration. Dunn said that the state is forecasting for additional visitors this summer. Dunn noted that the tourism industry accounts for $3.72 billion in direct and indirect spending throughout the state and now represents 45,000 or 8% of jobs in the state jobs.
Dunn said that the state office is continuing to focus on marketing the state to Australia, German Speaking Europe, Japan, Korea, as well as, the United Kingdom on top of domestic advertising efforts.
Ralph Samuels with Holland America Cruise Lines, noted the changing cruising industry facing the state amid the voter backed waste water discharge regulations, as well as, federal emission control areas mandating the use of low-surfers fuels within 200 miles of the U.S. coastline. Samuels said that the problem for the Alaskan cruise industry is that cruse routes that travel to Alaska, is the only cruse destination affected 100% by these regulations. Samuels said that this problem is not solely affecting the tourism industry, the same fuel regulations will affect transport ships bring goods to the state, which could increase the price for goods by roughly 8%.
Samuels did say that Holland America is remaining bullish on Alaska; however, these regulations will impact the numbers of ships traveling to the state.