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."