The vast majority of Alaska visitors arrive in the summer months, but tourism doesn't stop there for Anchorage. Meetings and events pull in hundreds of thousands of additional visitors and help maintain the city's reputation as a premier destination.
According to Visit Anchorage, the municipality of Anchorage sees nearly half of the state's 2 million visitors.
"If you live in Anchorage you benefit from tourism," said Visit Anchorage president and CEO Julie Saupe. "The travel industry touches and strengthens nearly every aspect of our economy. Our 2016 year-end numbers show leisure and business travel had an estimated economic impact of $434 million -- those are new dollars circulating in our local economy that support businesses, year-round jobs and payrolls of all sizes."
According to Visit Anchorage's 2016 Report to the Community, leisure travelers accounted for $347 million last year. Meetings generated an additional $88 million, with 568 events hosted at the city's two convention centers, which welcomed over 300,000 visitors.
The average visitor to Alaska spends $941 per person, not including the costs of cruises or airfare, the report said. Projected room taxes of almost $25 million in 2016 supported municipal services with one-third going to the city's general fund. The remainder was used to pay the bond debt on the convention centers and the municipality's destination marketing contract. RV and car rental taxes totaled more than $6 million.
Nearly one-half of Alaska's 35,000 leisure and hospitality jobs are found within the municipality of Anchorage. The state also supports more than 100 tourism-related businesses. In 2016, the Visitor Industry Charity Walk distributed $39,000 to 50 charities.
Anchorage highlights include:
• Hosting the Go West Summit, an international meeting of tour operators and suppliers representing 32 counties.
• Hosting Adventure Travel World Summit, which brought 850 domestic and international adventure travel suppliers, buyers and journalists to Anchorage.
• Hosting Ducks Unlimited and its 1,200 delegates generating an estimated economic impact of $1.4 million. It was DU's third time to Anchorage and the largest meeting of 2016.
• Hosting three meetings-planner fam tours, including the largest on record representing $10 million in potential business.
Future meetings and conventions already on the books are expected to generate more than $87 million, according to Visit Anchorage. And there are 388 new meeting accounts opened.
While 2016 was "another banner year," Saupe said concerns remain because funding for tourism marketing has "been nearly obliterated." It has dropped from $18 million three years ago to $1.5 million this fiscal year.
"At a time when the city and state are struggling to balance both sides of the spreadsheet, we need to continue to open our arms to travelers and understand tourism is economic development," Saupe said.