Study: When economy goes south, visitors less likely to head north

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*logoA study of potential Alaska vacationers commissioned by the Alaska Travel Industry Association quantifies what has become painfully clear this year: As the worldwide recession and job uncertainty linger, consumers are less likely to vacation in Alaska.

The ATIA study, titled Travel Intentions 2009, was prepared by GMA Research Corp. in Bellevue, Wash., from interviews with 600 potential travelers who requested information for an Alaska vacation late last year and through March of this year. (Interviews were conducted in three waves: November 2008, January 2009 and March 2009.)

According to the report, although the percentage of consumers who said they would definitely take an Alaska vacation this year was about equal each time the survey was conducted (about 13%), the percentage of consumers who indicated they would "definitely not go" rose from 18% in November to 32% in March, indicating that as the economic downturn continued into the spring, consumers grew increasingly more reluctant to travel.

In March, approximately two-thirds of respondents indicated that they would either "definitely not go" (32%) or "probably not go" (31%) to Alaska.

By comparison, in January, 24% of those surveyed said they would definitely not go to Alaska.

Two-thirds of those who indicated they were either "definitely not" or "probably not" going to Alaska this year said it was because they were waiting for either a "good deal" or the money to pay for a trip.

The report also showed that 44% of consumers who had already booked an Alaska vacation purchased a package tour, compared with 7% who planned to pay for their lodging and activities once they got there.

As of March, 72% of those who said they were "definitely going" to Alaska this year had already booked their trips.

Some good news in the report: About 80% of those who are intent on coming to Alaska this year said they are unlikely to cancel their trips even if the economy worsens.

The last time the survey was conducted in 2007, the average age of respondents was 60.9 years, compared with 64.3 years in March 2009.

Average income, meanwhile, dropped $900, to $70,400.

The study is available from the ATIA at www.alaskatia.org.

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