Alaska Officials Propose Consolidation of Tourism Efforts

By Jerry Brown

ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- The Alaska Visitors Association floated a white paper at its annual convention here that describes the dismantling of current promotional efforts in favor of one new entity: the Travel Industry Association of Alaska, or TIAA. Because the unit would be financed mostly, or even entirely, by the private sector, higher consumer prices could be in the cards.

The proposal was discussed at length and agreed to in principle during the convention.

The move would involve consolidating into one the activities of the AVA, the state's Division of Tourism and the public-private sector Alaska Tourism Marketing Council, which administers the yearly marketing plan. In the past, the ATMC was funded largely by the state with a substantial assist from the private sector. But state funding for the ATMC effort has declined from $10 million in 1990 to just $5 million in the current fiscal year. Although the industry has picked up some of the slack, mostly through direct contributions, it has not yet developed a dependable formula to guarantee continuing adequate funding.

With oil revenues down and the fishing and lumber industries in a slump, the Legislature initiated a five-year program to cut $250 million from Alaska's expenditures, which will mean, according to some prominent lawmakers, a further severe drop in tourism spending. Alaska tourism interests hope that they can persuade the state to maintain a modest level of funding, at least $4 million a year, and that the TIAA will devise permanent money-raising mechanisms to bring the state's total budget up to $10 million.

Members at the convention were asked to contribute their ideas for presentation at the next legislative session in January. In the white paper, the directors of AVA noted that whatever new plan is devised would be "painful" for the private sector. The cruise lines, it said, would be expected to contribute about $2 million a year and destination marketing organizations a similar amount. The remainder would come from sales of memberships, convention sponsorships and "pay-to-play" programs, under which TIAA members would be allowed to buy advertising in the state vacation planner, to participate in trade shows and to buy mailing labels.

Directors of the AVA believes that the final, tourism promotion-sustaining formula might not be in place until 2000, hence the white paper's title: "The New Millennium Plan."

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