House plan to set aside $6 million for tourism but none for salmon

Posted: Friday, January 25, 2002

A bill to set aside $6 million to help Alaska's tourism industry market the state to vacationers is slated to be introduced in the state House.

The funding would be given to the Alaska Travel Industry Association this year in an effort to lessen an expected drop in vacationers this summer due to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

House Finance Co-Chairman Eldon Mulder, an Anchorage Republican, said the measure would be filed as early as today.

Budget leaders in the House and Senate said they have no plans to fund a similar effort for the state's salmon industry. Problems hobbling that industry - such as a glut in prices from farm-raised fish - are not likely to be fixed by an advertising campaign, Mulder said.

"The emergency nature of it is not as clear," Mulder said.

Senate Finance Co-Chairman Dave Donley, an Anchorage Republican, said he's opposed to giving funds to the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute.

Spending on advertising campaigns to benefit Alaska surfaced early in the session as priority issues with the Legislature and governor.

Gov. Tony Knowles proposed spending $10 million each to fund such campaigns for tourism and salmon interests.

Alaska tourism officials asked for more than $12 million in assistance, warning that early vacation bookings are down between 30 and 50 percent.

The industry hopes to counter travel fears with advertising portraying Alaska as a safe alternative to foreign travel.

Other destinations have taken similar steps. Las Vegas earmarked $13 million in emergency tourism marketing funds, Canada has put aside $15 million and the Caribbean plans to spend $31 million, state officials said.

But Alaska's travel industry is unlikely to receive even the level that Knowles sought since the state faces a difficult budget deficit, Mulder said.

"If we could come up with $6 million, I think we will have done a yeomen's duty," Mulder said.

Knowles also sought $1 million for lobbying to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling.

The Senate Finance Committee approved a Republican-led plan on Thursday to give Arctic Power $1 million to lobby Congress for ANWR and also give the city of Kaktovik $100,000 for ANWR efforts.

The measure won bipartisan support when it passed the House 33-2 on Wednesday, but not before lawmakers from both sides of the aisle called for tourism and salmon funds.

Another attempt was made Thursday. Sen. Lyman Hoffman, a Bethel Democrat, offered an amendment to spend $1.2 million on tourism marketing and $1 million for salmon marketing. It failed.

Bob King, Knowles press secretary, said funding for both the tourism and salmon industries are equally important and both should be considered.

"That money is not going to save the industry, but it's an important investment to allow the industry to rebuild," King said. "Other steps need to be taken."

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