Suppliers stress value in effort to boost bookings

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Alaska is still a premium destination, but the days of paying premium prices for Alaska cruises and wilderness adventures are over, at least for the summer.

With summer bookings at a crawl, tour companies are offering unprecedented travel deals. Alaska's travel suppliers are also getting a boost from the Alaska Travel Industry Association, which has launched the Alaska Value Campaign, with TV and Web ads highlighting these discounts.

By reallocating some $600,000 from its fiscal year budget, the association created a website, AlaskasHottestDeals.com, featuring regularly updated promotions from the association's member businesses.

"The reports we're hearing from our members is alarming," said ATIA President Ron Peck. "Bookings are coming in very slowly right now. We're hoping this campaign will change some minds and convince people that a vacation to Alaska is really more affordable and accessible than they may think.

"We're seeing seven-night Alaska cruises for as little as $399," Peck said. "You can't even check into a hotel for a week for that little, let alone eat. Between the last-minute travel deals and the fact that 2009 marks our 50th anniversary of statehood, there has never been a better year to come to Alaska."

Alaska's tourism leaders are also aiming their value message at Alaskans, hoping that locals snap up this year's unprecedented deals and vacation in their home state.

In a recent column for the Juneau Empire website, Peck appealed to Alaskans to "support the visitor industry by traveling in state." Peck wrote: "Don't feel bad about sticking closer to home. From taking a day cruise to renting kayaks or hiring a fishing guide or water taxi, we all can enjoy our beautiful state and help small tourism businesses weather the challenging season ahead."

Among the promotions on AlaskasHottestDeals.com:

• Princess Cruises (www.princess.com) is offering a seven-night Voyage of the Glaciers sailing between Vancouver and Whittier (or reverse), starting at $349 per person for an inside cabin on the Coral Princess May 18 and 25, and on the Diamond Princess May 16, 23 and 30.

• Holland America (www.hollandamerica.com) is offering a View and Verandah promotion with cabin upgrades starting at $50 and a seven-day cruise starting at $499.

• At four Denali Park Resorts (www.denaliparkresorts.com), customers pay the regular rate on the first night and receive a second night for $50 from May 12 to Sept. 20.

• Save more than $250 on the two-night Winter Escape package at Pearson's Pond Luxury Inn & Adventure Spa (www.pearsonspond.com) in Juneau. The package includes a suite with a fireplace, breakfast and a choice of one massage per person at the inn or two lift tickets for the Eagle-crest Ski Area.

• Alaska Backcountry Adventure Tours (www.youralaskavacation.com) in Palmer is offering $100 off a full-day, guided snowmobile tour that takes customers for a ride along part of the Iditarod Trail.

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