State's visitor arrival numbers plummet

JUNEAU -- Nothing offers more vivid testimony to the need for more intensive promotion of Alaska than the latest visitor arrival figures.

The new statistics, compiled by the Juneau-based McDowell Group for the state's Division of Tourism, are for summer 1998. The figures indicate that the rate of growth in visitor traffic dropped precipitously, to 1.3% in 1998 from 5.3% in 1997 and 10.1% in 1996.

Although this summer's figures are not yet in, not many in the travel business believe they will show any significant improvement. The downward trend mirrors the drop in the funding of the state's tourism effort.

The proposed new setup, with the single body Alaska Travel Industry Association trying to broaden the base of contributors, is aimed at getting the state's promotional budget back to the kind of level at which it can realistically hope to reverse the recent downturn.

An apparent drop in consumers' desire to visit the state is as troubling to the industry as the actual declining growth rate. A recent study by the Travel Industry Association of America indicated Alaska was 12th among the "must-visit" destinations identified by members of the public in 1998. In 1997, Alaska was eighth on the list.

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