Alaska: Governor Dunleavy Directs Funding to Continue Momentum of Tourism Recovery
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December 13, 2021 (Anchorage) –Today, Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy announced two grants to continue the momentum of recovery for the $4.5 billion Alaska tourism industry. Governor Dunleavy announced a $5 million federal grant in his proposed fiscal year 2023 budget, directed to the Alaska Travel Industry Association, (ATIA), and he highlighted a recently approved $10.5 million federal grant that he designated to the tourism association in September.

"Last summer, visitors began returning after ATIA launched a national marketing campaign that engaged travelers to visit in the COVID-safe spaces of vast Alaska," said Governor Dunleavy. "In many parts of the state, we saw more travelers moving through our airports, staying in hotels and bed & breakfasts, fishing, and staying at facilities in state parks."

The post-pandemic landscape for tourism had looked grim. A study by McKinley Research Group showed visitor volume fell by an estimated 82 percent between April and December for 2019 and 2020, from 2.4 million visitors to just 427,000 visitors. The economic loss from a canceled cruise ship season for Alaska is estimated to total $3 billion alone. In 2020, zero visitors arrived by cruise ship.

Early last year, when many tourism businesses were considering closing their doors, Governor Dunleavy directed $5 million in emergency CARES Act funds to ATIA to attract independent travelers to Alaska through different modes of transportation.

"ATIA is Alaska's statewide tourism marketing leader. I appreciate how the nonprofit has collaborated with other tourism promoters and my Administration to keep Alaska top of mind for potential travelers," Governor Dunleavy said. "I applaud the outreach work of the many other tourism visitor centers, chambers, and bureaus as well. Our joint work may be credited with bringing in tourists after the disaster and saving many small tourism businesses."

The joint COVID-safe marketing effort of Alaska Governor Dunleavy's Office, the tourism grantees for the Dept. of Commerce, Community and Economic Development, and the nonprofit ATIA, together, helped draw tourists in the 2021 summer season. The overall funding for marketing Alaska as COVID safe was some $27 million.

The competitive tourism marketing grants for the COVID-safe campaign were issued to the following entities:

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Tourism marketing grants:

Mat-Su Convention and Visitors Bureau $170,385

Explore Fairbanks Alaska $348,640

Discover Kodiak $31,107

Homer Chamber of Commerce and Visitor's Center $253,489

Seward Chamber of Commerce $179,000

Visit Anchorage $1,630,000

Ketchikan Visitors Bureau $527,790

Cordova Chamber of Commerce $376,000

Koahnic Broadcast Corporation $451,580

Alaska Travel Industry Association $1,999,279

Kenai Peninsula Tourism Marketing Council $410,000

Visit Sitka, Sitka Chamber of Commerce $235,000

Travel Juneau $574,000

Kawerak, Inc. $941,885

Valdez Convention and Visitors Bureau $88,290

Spruce Root, Inc.$1,560,000

Copper Valley Development Association $140,000

Haines Economic Development Corporation $88,355

RETURNING TOURISTS

Alaska's tourism market has not reached pre-pandemic levels yet, but upticks show progress, including:
  • Passenger travel to the Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport (ANC) continued its climb back to pre-pandemic levels. For the summer of 2021, May through September, 877,351 more passengers passed through ANC when compared to last year, ANC reports.
  • Last summer, Fairbanks International Airport, (FAI), reports it was bustling with expanded service from two new seasonal carriers and added destinations from two long-term carriers. This year, FAI anticipates the return of international carriers in the summer of 2022 with service to Frankfurt, Germany and Dawson City charter operations. United Airlines just announced "Alaska Beckons" for this summer with a new daily destination through FAI to Chicago.
  • In the third quarter of this fiscal year, bed taxes and visitor room revenues for hotels and non-hotels continue to trend upward in Alaska communities since 2019, particularly in Ketchikan and Juneau, recently up 26 percent and up 49 percent in bed taxes, respectively.
  • Sportfishing licenses for visitors went up, with 2,813 more non-resident licenses purchased in 2021 than in 2019.

Today, Governor Dunleavy celebrated the positive market indicators for tourism with representatives from the state's tourism industry, including the recent grants recipient, ATIA, at an Alaska Airlines' hangar at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport. Alaska Airlines partnered with ATIA and tourism businesses last summer to offer a sale on flights to Alaska to help lure travelers north.

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The new funding will help Alaska's tourism industry remain competitive. "There's more pent-up demand to travel globally, and we want Alaska to compete for it and to capitalize on it," Governor Dunleavy said.

Visitors' dollars circulating in the economy support tourism businesses, restore jobs, and generate revenue for Alaska communities.

ON DECK FOR TOURISM

The tourism industry anticipates this summer:
  • The number of returning cruise ships is expected to hit an all-time high. Thirty ships make the normal season. 2021 saw eight ships, the industry reports.
  • International air service returns in summer 2022 with Iceland, Germany, and Canada restoring connecting flights in Anchorage and a potential for new service to Seoul, Korea, and Japan.

GRANTS TO ATIA

The funding sources for the tourism grants, designated by Gov. Dunleavy, to ATIA include:
  • In Jan. 2021, a $5 million emergency grant from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, CARES Act.
  • In July 2021, ATIA also received a COVID Safe Travel Promotion and Marketing grant of $1.99 million through the Alaska Dept. of Commerce, Community & Economic Development and developed a COVID-19 safe travel campaign targeted to the summer season and the independent, domestic traveler through digital media. As part of this campaign, ATIA re-launched a travel safe tourism marketing campaign targeted to in-state (resident) travelers: Show Up for Alaska, which encouraged Alaskans to explore their state last summer.
  • In September, a $10.48 million grant was designated by Gov. Dunleavy and approved in November from the U.S. Department of Economic Development Administration, (EDA), to support the travel, tourism, and outdoor recreation sectors in the state. The grant funding will allow for the continuation of statewide tourism promotional efforts, activated during the pandemic. The funds were approved by the Legislature in the third special session.
  • Today, Governor Dunleavy designated a $5 million grant in his FY23 budget from the federal American Rescue Plan Act, subject to legislative approval.

"In preparation for growth in visitors, my budget will also seek an extra $1 million for the State Parks to make sure our facilities are clean and accessible for both in and out-of-state visitors," Governor Dunleavy said.

From 2019 to 2020, Alaska State parks saw a 33 percent increase in reserved facilities like cabins and campground sites and, so far for 2021, a seven percent increase over that.

Watch the 12/13 Press Briefing on Livestream

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