Obituary: Chuck West, Alaska tourism pioneer, 90

NEW YORK -- Charles Chuck West, a pioneer in the Alaska tourism market whose work earned him the nickname Mr. Alaska, died Oct. 4 at his cabin in Haines, Alaska. He was 90.

West was the founder, chairman and CEO of Cruise West until the early 1990s, when his son Richard became chairman and CEO. He also was the founder of Westours, a major tour operator in the 49th state that interwove bus transportation, hotels and cruising. He sold it to Holland America Line in 1973.

He served as president of ASTA in 1969 and 1970.

Chuck West was truly one of Alaskas tourism forefathers, said Ron Peck, president of the Alaska Travel Industry Association. His vision, entrepreneurial spirit and passion for Alaska was integral to our tourism industry. 

West was working as a bush pilot in Alaska for Wein Airlines after World War II when he sold and flew the first all-tourist excursions to Nome and Kotzeubue, Alaska. He established Arctic Alaska Tours and, in 1951, moved its operations to Seattle.

In order to more effectively move visitors around the state, West founded a hotel chain, motorcoach network and cruise line that sailed Alaskas Inside Passage. Westours, an umbrella group of Wests various enterprises, was born in 1957.

West founded Cruise West in the mid-1980s by offering daylight yacht cruises on the Sheltered Seas and overnight land accommodations.

West is a member of the ASTA Travel Hall of Fame. He received the Golden Plate Award from the American Academy of Achievement, the Alaska Visitors Association North Star Award and the U.S. Air Force Distinguished Flying Cross.

In addition to his son Richard, West is survived by his wife Marguerite, three daughters, 12 grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren. 

To contact the reporter who wrote this article, send e-mail to Rebecca Tobin at [email protected].

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