Alaska’s Denali National Park is downsizing its recreational vehicle accommodations, responding to a dropoff in RV tourism in the state.
The Anchorage Daily News reported that the Denali Grizzly Bear Resort is eliminating RV spaces, replacing them with cabins to cater to tourists who come on package tours.
Owner Scott Reisland links the decision to a troubling decline he and other Alaska tourism-dependent companies have tracked for more than a decade – the steady loss of asphalt-bound travelers entering Alaska via the Alaska Highway.
This year, Alaska border stations recorded a dramatic drop in visitation via the highway – about 11% to 12%, according to the Alaska Tourism Industry Association (ATIA).
In recent years, the statewide decline in border crossings had been more on the order of 2% to 3% annually, according to ATIA.
The skyrocketing gasoline prices at the peak of last summer’s tourism season is probably the culprit for the bigger plunge, tourism officials said.
The further decline didn’t help an already struggling group of businesses that cater to independent travelers.
“RV parks have been closing. It’s been real stagnant,” Reisland said.
But Reisland, a member of the ATIA board, is worried about other businesses operating along the state’s major highways. “I do have much concern about those smaller mom-and-pop businesses that do not have the ability to expand into other venues,” he said.
Brenda Hewitt of Fairbanks used to operate Norlite Campground, the largest, family-owned RV park in the interior city. She closed it down last year due to declining profits.
Hewitt claims she is delighted to see recent overall growth in Alaska’s tourism industry, mostly fed by modest increases in cruise-ship traffic to Alaska.
But she says that until recently the state had been dropping the ball on attracting independent travelers who spend more money in local shops.