THE ALASKA HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES on March 4 passed a bill that increases the state match for tourism marketing from 50% to 70%. The remaining 30% would be funded by the Alaska Travel Industry Association (ATIA), a group of approximately 1,000 mostly Alaska-based tourism businesses and regional visitors' associations. Developed several years ago, the 50-50 partnership between the state and the ATIA was intended to fund tourism marketing for the state of Alaska, which this year will total $10 million. The ATIA, however, has been unable to come up with its portion of the budget, mainly because the majority of its members are small businesses. Reportedly, the ATIA typically has raised only $2 million to $2.5 million a year from its members.
EXACERBATING the ATIA's inability to raise its 50% share for tourism marketing this year was the cruise lines' decision to reduce their contributions because of the $50-per-passenger tax imposed by the state. The cruise lines have been a major source of funding for the ATIA match. However, Alaska's tourism marketing initiative is less important to the cruise lines, which spend millions of their own dollars promoting Alaska cruises. Tourism officials welcomed the bill, saying the decision will benefit the predominantly mom-and-pop, Alaskan-owned tourism businesses that are an integral part of Alaskan communities. The bill will go to the Senate for consideration.
A RECORD 2.6 MILLION people visited Alaska's national parks in 2007, the eighth consecutive year of increasing visitors, the National Park System reported. The final tally for 2007 reflected a 7% increase compared with 2006, when 2.4 million visitors visited the state's national parks. Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park in Skagway was again the most-visited park in the state, with 975,043 visitors. Denali (458,308) and Glacier Bay (438,211) rounded out the top three. All three saw increases compared with 2006.
THE NATIONAL PARK SYSTEM this summer will reopen the Eielson Visitor Center at Mile 66 of the Denali park road. The original facility, built in 1960, was demolished in late 2005. The new facility is significantly larger and more eco-friendly. It will feature solar panels and a hydroelectric generator that will provide much power to the remote facility. The building is expected to open in June.
ANCHORAGE'S new convention center is close to 85% complete, and city officials said the state-of-the-art facility will open in October. Construction on the $107 million Dena'ina Civic and Convention Center began in April 2006. The new center is being paid for with the city's hotel and motel bed tax. The new center has already booked several conventions.
Alaska Editor: Jorge Sidron
Phone: (973) 898-0011
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