A new survey conducted by the Juneau research firm McDowell Group answers questions about who comes to Alaska and what they want.
The survey provides an extensive database of traveler information that can be customized to provide visitor profiles for specific markets.
"Never before has such a comprehensive and accurate survey gathered details on who vacations in Alaska and how they plan their trip," said Susan Bell, senior manager with McDowell.
McDowell's surveyors interviewed more than 4,500 visitors at the end of their trips to Alaska in 2001. They asked about advertising sources, activities, destinations, satisfaction level, advance planning and tools such as the Internet used to gather information about the state.
The study concluded:
Travel agents are still important, but less so than in the past. More than half the visitors surveyed used the Internet for trip planning. About one-fifth bought at least one Alaska travel product electronically.
Repeat visitors have increased to nearly one-third of the market, partly because satisfaction rates remain high, 4.8 on a 5-point scale.
Planning times are shorter. More than one-half of those surveyed made their arrangements fewer than 90 days ahead of their trip.
Visitors cover less of the state than they used to, and are more likely to focus on specific areas and activities.
Niche markets such as wildlife viewing, adventure travel and cultural tourism are becoming more important.
Shore-excursion buying by cruise visitors is up. "Cruisers are buying more day tours, based on a comparison to our past statewide surveys," said Bell, formerly the executive director of the Juneau Convention and Visitors Bureau.
McDowell Group estimates that about 1.3 million pleasure, business and seasonal visitors came to Alaska from May to September of 2001 with cruise-ship volume slowing in growth and the noncruise market staying at the same level as recent years.
Based on the survey, Bell had several recommendations.
"People need to be aggressive about placing their marketing where the consumer is looking for information," she said this morning. "Tour operators, travel agents and hotels should recognize the growth of the Internet and have information that is easily accessible there."
"Information needs to be available when people are planning vacations, and they plan different activities at different times of the year," Bell added. "Knowing your market maximizes whatever resources you have."
McDowell Group has been tracking the characteristics of visitors to Alaska since 1985. Those interested in more information about the study, or asking McDowell how it can be tailored to provide information on specific markets, should contact Bell at 586-6126.
Ann Chandonnet can be reached at email@example.com.