With the new year approaching, Travel
Weekly contributing editor Jorge Sidron asked Ron Peck, president
and COO of the Alaska Travel Industry Association, how tourism has
fared this year and what 2008 might look like in the Last Frontier
Weekly:In general terms, what's the state of Alaska
Peck: Alaska tourism continues to grow, but
the rate of growth is smaller than what was seen in the 1980s and
1990s. We currently see growth of 1% to 3%, whereas in the 1980s
and 1990s we saw double-digit growth.
TW:How was business thus far this year
and during the critical summer season?
Peck: Summer 2007 was good for Alaska
tourism businesses. We estimate a 3% increase over the number of
visitors that came in summer 2006. Border-crossing numbers showed
an increase in the number of highway travelers.
TW:Describe the state of cruising in
Alaska. Is it still the top tourism market?
Peck: It is true that Alaska sees more
cruise passengers than those traveling by other modes of travel,
and this can be partially credited to the amount of marketing each
cruise line conducts. ATIA's marketing, on the other hand, is
targeted to all types of travelers: air, highway, ferry and cruise.
Our goal is to increase awareness of Alaska as a destination and
provide information on all the ways you can explore the
TW:How does the cruise passenger
visiting Alaska today differ from a few years ago? Has the
Peck: Yes, the demographic for cruise
visitors has changed. 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,
compared to 53 in 2006. Another significant change is that more
international consumers are cruising in Alaska. In 1993, the
percent of international consumers cruising was just 5%, and that
increased to 11% in 2006.
TW:Are the number of visitors that
come by land and air rising? Are these visitors looking for
Peck: Preliminary numbers for visitors
traveling to Alaska via highway show an increase, and the feedback
we are getting from business owners along the highway is very good.
Based on border-crossing numbers, ATIA expects the number of
highway travelers was up by an estimated 9% in 2007, while the
number of air travelers remained steady.
The primary reasons
people choose to travel to Alaska are to see our beautiful scenery
and wildlife, regardless of their mode of travel. People come to
Alaska to see our glaciers, the wildlife and mountains. Visitors traveling to Alaska via air and highway
tend to be a bit more adventurous and enjoy traveling at their own
TW:What can we expect from the ATIA as
Alaska gears up for 2008?
Peck: ATIA is experiencing funding
difficulties, so our marketing budget may be strained this coming
year. Our direct-mail package that includes a personal invitation
from the governor to visit Alaska continues to perform well for us
and will be a large part of our marketing effort. We'll continue
with TV advertising on cable networks as our budget allows, and a
small magazine and online advertising campaign will round out our
program for the year.
TW:Are there any plans to promote
Alaska on the airwaves next year?
Peck: ATIA hopes to continue placing ads on
TV, but it will depend on funding.
TW:Tell me about the ATIA's plan for
travel agents next year.
Peck: ATIA will be attending a variety of
trade shows, including ASTA, CLIA and Vacation.com. We will also
conduct our own series of training in Florida in January with our
member businesses. Alaska brochures are available on
TravelPromotions.com, and our free online training program, Alaska
Certified Expert, is available at www .travelalaska.com/trade.
TW:Alaska is a destination that needs
to weigh its efforts to grow tourism with a need to protect the
environment. How is Alaska doing in this regard?
Peck: It is clearly stated in ATIA's vision
statement that the organization will remain "attentive to care for
the environment." Alaska tourism companies have always been very
sensitive to the impact their activities have on the environment.
If they were not attentive to the environment, they would, in
essence, be putting themselves out of business.
contact reporter Jorge Sidron, send e-mail to [email protected].