Heritage plans appeal to broad spectrum

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ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- Alaska Heritage Tours' packages appeal to a broad spectrum of independent travelers, ages 30 to 60, according to Kim Olson, the company's tour director.

Trend-wise, she's noticing more family travel every year as well as two to four couples traveling together.

"The majority of our clients are first-timers to Alaska," Olson said, "but I think a lot of travelers today want to do it at their own pace and don't want the guided tours."

Olson estimated about 30% of Alaska Heritage Tours' guests are return visitors to Alaska, and about 15% are repeat clients.

The rate of return clientele for the day-boat operations -- Kenai Fjords Tour and Prince William Sound Tours -- is from 30% to 40%, Olson estimated.

Alaska's appeal, particularly this year, Olson said, "is that we're still a very exotic destination."

"People who were planning overseas trips, [and] who might not be ready to do that, might look to Alaska. We have a very safe feel. It's intimate yet vast, and the people are friendly and welcoming."

The best opportunities for independent travelers to meet local people, Olson said, are with the packages that include Talkeetna, Seward, Anchorage or Valdez, which she described as "a wonderful town tucked in a bay.

"Denali is probably the only town that isn't local because it is seasonal," she said. "You'll find Alaskans love to talk about Alaska, to tell stories and suggest what to do. There's a neat sense of pride in the state."

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