Alaska continues to see growth in tourism arrivals

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Alaska tourism continues to grow, although the rate of growth is slower now than during the 1980s and '90s, according to Ron Peck, the Alaska Travel Industry Association's president and COO.

Peck said Alaska is experiencing tourism growth between 1% and 3% year-over-year, whereas in the '80s and '90s the state saw double-digit growth in tourist arrivals.

Still, the 2007 summer tourism season was strong, with the number of tourists who came by cruise ship, land and air expected to be up 3% compared with summer 2006, Peck said.

Preliminary figures for visitors traveling to Alaska by highway show an increase of about 9% so far this year compared with 2006, while the number of air travelers remained steady, Peck said.

Not surprisingly, the majority of visitors to Alaska come by cruise ship, with the total number of cruise passengers visiting Alaska up four-fold since 1990, when 235,000 came to the state by ship.

As the number of cruise ship passengers rises, their demographics are also changing, Peck said.

According to the Alaska Visitors Statistics Program, cruise passengers over the last decade are getting younger. The average age of a cruise visitor in 1993 was 55 years old, compared with 53 years in 2006.

In addition, more international travelers are cruising to Alaska.

In 1993, just 5% of all cruise passengers were from outside the U.S., but last year 11% of cruise passengers were classified as international arrivals.

To contact reporter Jorge Sidron, send e-mail to [email protected].

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