ABOARD THE MAASDAM -- A proposal to bring Alaska's three-pronged
tourism promotional effort under centralized control could be in
jeopardy because of a difference of opinion between Gov. Tony
Knowles and the private sector.
The impasse, over who would have the right to make marketing and
spending decisions, could indefinitely delay implementation of the
so-called New Millennium Plan, which the industry has been trying
to finalize for more than a year.
The latest details of the proposal were given to delegates at
the annual Alaska Visitors Association convention, held aboard
Holland America's Maasdam on a sailing between Vancouver, British
Columbia, and Los Angeles.
The plan would create a statewide organization, possibly to be
known as the Alaska Travel Industry Association (ATIA), by merging
the activities of the AVA, which is a trade association; the
state's Division of Tourism, and the Alaska Tourism Marketing
Council (ATMC), which administers the programs jointly decided upon
by the other two.
The New Millennium Plan, under which the private sector would
contribute an increasing share of a proposed $10 million, with the
state's share gradually declining, is intended to provide a more
streamlined organization and a more stable source of funding.
An earlier version of the plan failed to get through the 1998
session of the legislature. One of the sticking points was the
administration's insistence on retaining all, or a large part, of
the marketing decisions for the Division of Tourism.
Although an amended version of the plan will be resubmitted when
the legislature reconvenes next year, the private sector has not
changed its opinion that the Division of Tourism should be no more
than a partner in the planning process.
AVA members were unwilling to speak negatively in public about
the standoff, but privately they tended to take a pessimistic view.
One former president of the association said, "There's not much
sentiment in the private sector for us to pick up the lion's share
of the tab for a generic Alaska promotion if the state is going to
tell us how it has to be spent." Another former president
characterized the chances of getting the law enacted in the 1999
session of the legislature as "slim, at best, and nonexistent
unless we can get around the administration's opposition to the
role the private sector has in mind for the Division of
Alaska's tourism promotion budget has been dwindling since 1990.
Then, it stood at $15 million. It dropped to just over $10 million
in 1994, to $8 million in 1997 and to just $6.7 million in fiscal
1998, of which $2.7 million was contributed by the private