Facing a multibillion-dollar deficit, declining revenue and a public generally opposed to new taxes, the state has cut back on most services. In this year’s capital budget, there’s at least one area that’s getting some extra help. Tourism marketing is expanding.
In December, Gov. Bill Walker proposed a grant of $3 million to market Alaska to tourists. That’s up from $1.5 million last year, and while the Legislature cut plenty of items from Walker’s budget proposal, it didn’t cut tourism dollars.
“We thought we weren’t going to have any funding, then we got the good news that we received $3 million,” said Jillian Simpson, vice president of the Alaska Travel Industry Association, which manages the state’s marketing efforts.
Established in 2014 by the Alaska Legislature, the marketing board is an effort to consolidate the state’s marketing. Before then, state government had a marketing wing, duplicating the work of private-sector boosters. Now, the state provides a grant under supervision by the board. ATIA does the work.
In fiscal year 2017, the state contributed just $1.5 million to tourism marketing. For the first time, the state didn’t print a physical tourist-information brochure, making it the only state in the country to lack one.
Despite those cuts, Alaska saw a record number of tourists in summer 2016: 1.86 million altogether and 1.03 million aboard cruise ships. Two-thirds of visitors stopped in Southeast Alaska, and 61 percent stopped in Juneau on their trips.
International visitors were less than 10 percent of the total tourist crowd last summer: 167,000 of the 1.86 million. Of those international guests, 38 percent came from Europe, 36 percent came from Australia/New Zealand, and 14 percent came from Asia.
Why German-speaking Europe? According to the study, 12 percent of Alaska’s international tourists came from Germany, Switzerland or Austria. Seventeen percent came from the United Kingdom. The Netherlands and Italy were 2 percent each, leaving the rest of Europe to make up the last 3 percent.
Simpson said the main thing to keep in mind is that “Alaska is a long-haul destination” and “requires a lot of advance planning.”
• Contact reporter James Brooks at email@example.com or call 523-2258.