on Peck, new president and chief
operating officer of the Alaska Travel Industry Association (ATIA),
talked with associate editor Paul Felt about the marketing body's
tourism efforts and goals.
Travel Weekly:What has been the response
from travel agents to the new Destination Specialist Alaska
program, developed with the Institute of Certified Travel
Peck: Outstanding. ICTA had the highest number
of inquiries they've ever had for that kind of program. We believe
the program received over 500 inquiries.
TW:The ATIA commissioned a statewide
survey of 315 tourism-related businesses about the summer season.
What is the state of the Alaska tourism industry?
Peck: The number of tourists we had for the
season was either right at 1.2 million, same as last year, or
We know that our cruise ship passengers increased from 690,000
(from summer, 2001) to 720,000. That means that the rest of the
industry is less than healthy. [The number of noncruisers] went
from 510,000 to 480,000.
TW:Isn't the problem that the same total
number of people are spending less money?
Peck: Overall, we believe that visitor spending
is down. The prices of cruises and cruise tours dropped
substantially, and those are not good indicators for the
For example, this year you could purchase cruises for $499 and $599
on season, which was just unheard of in the Alaska market in the
The other thing that we know is that the less expensive
excursions did well, whereas the higher to mid-range stuff did
TW:What other market factors concern
Peck: People are taking shorter trips, closer
to home. I've read RV purchases are way up [in the lower 48
states], but we didn't see that business here. Our border crossings
on the Alcan and Taylor highways were down substantially (10%).
I also think we're seeing a change in the buying cycle. The
cruise industry used to be able to tell you before Dec. 31 what
summer would look like. Now, folks are gathering info on the Web
and waiting for a deal.
TW:How do you think the ATIA can do a
better job of marketing the state?
Peck: Sometimes it takes a little money to make
money. For our fiscal year through July 2003, our budget will be
$10 million -- 60% private and 40% state. At a little more than
$4.2 million in funding from the state, we rank 39th in state
tourism marketing dollars.
We'd like to double our budget. We believe we need to be at $20
million. The difference from 10 years ago is there's a lot more
infrastructure and availability of product, from hotels to
excursions. It is a marketing issue, plain and simple.
TW:You have more than 25 years' experience
in Alaska tourism marketing. Has heading up the ATIA changed your
ideas about how to best sell Alaska?
Peck: Not really. The reasons people come to
Alaska are to see the mountains, glaciers and wildlife, and to a
lesser degree the cultural experience. That hasn't changed in 50
years. The image of Alaska -- we still have that in spades.
TW:The ATIA recently introduced a new logo
and tagline: "Beyond Your Dreams, Within Your Reach." What does
that mean to you?
Peck: Research we have conducted tells us about
[perception] hurdles: time, distance and cost. The new tagline
addresses them very well.