Despite high fuel prices, persistent smoke from wildland fires and national security concerns, more than 1.4 million visitors traveled to Alaska this summer as the state’s tourism industry reported “robust growth” throughout most sectors, according to the Alaskan Journal of Commerce.
“The numbers were good. We had a good summer,” Charlie Ball, board chairman of the Alaska Tourism Industry Association (ATIA), said during the travel industry’s annual convention held this October in Fairbanks. “Most sectors did well. In Fairbanks, we had a hard time getting rooms a number of nights.”
The number of visitors this summer grew 7 to 8 percent from the 1.3 million people who traveled to Alaska in 2003, Ball said during the convention, which was attended by a record 550-plus industry representatives.
Tourism generated $1.8 billion for Alaska’s economy in 2003, a number that will likely approach $2 billion by the end of 2004, according to Ron Peck, president and chief executive officer of ATIA, the statewide tourism organization.
Specific industry sector statistics closely monitored by ATIA and its member businesses show similar growth for this summer. Vehicle rentals increased in value by 5 percent, rising to $27.7 million, Ball said. Airport arrivals increased by more than 12 percent, rising to a total of 3.5 million in 2004.
The number of cruise-ship passengers increased this summer to 805,000, up from 776,000 in 2003.
Early market indications, including advance bookings in some sectors, have caused Peck to be “cautiously optimistic that 2005 will be a good year,” he said at the conclusion of the conference. “It’s really, really too early to predict, but the numbers are looking strong, better than even this year’s numbers in this time frame.”