Visitor bureau reaches Outside

Crab lovers coming to Juneau are a good sign for economy

Posted: Friday, May 19, 2006

Next week, some 60 people from various corners of the globe will meet in Juneau to share their love of shrimp and crab.

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The Crustacean Society biologists meeting in Juneau also will bring their spending power to hotels and restaurants - the Juneau Convention and Visitor Bureau estimates the conference will generate $65,000.

Guests coming to Juneau for conventions and meetings booked or pending over the next two years could generate $3.1 million for the local economy, according to bureau President and CEO Lorene Palmer.

"The $3.1 million is a conservative number," said Palmer, adding that more revenue comes from renting meeting rooms, catering or any other costs associated with putting on the conventions.

The bureau is casting its net to bring in more national and international groups to Juneau, while continuing to host state associations, such as the Alaska Dental Society and the Alaska Municipal League.

The Phycological Society of America, a national group of algae researchers, will come in July.

Competition can be fierce to book these groups, Palmer said. The expense of flying to Juneau can be a hurdle for some, while others are looking for exotic locales, such as Los Cabos or Nova Scotia.

Lately, the bureau has been working on luring the Mining History Association because it's a group that has a specific tie to Juneau.

"We look for the kinds of intrinsic, common characteristics that we have that might make it more compelling to come to Juneau," Palmer said. "We look for something that will be a hook for them."

The bureau has its eye on groups that focus on the environment, ocean sciences and Native culture, she said.

In the case of the Crustacean Society, Sherry Tamone, a University of Alaska Southeast associate professor, was instrumental in bringing the biologists here. She's also a member of the group.

Every summer the group meets in a different place. For example, biologists met in Glasgow, Scotland, last year and Williamsburg, Va., two years ago.

Juneau was suggested because a portion of the membership lives in Alaska, and the city offers a peek at the crab seafood industry and a plethora of critters floating in nearby waters, Tamone said.

"We're not getting as many registrants as we hoped, and part of that is probably travel costs," she said. "But I still think Juneau is a great place to come see."

Tamone, who also is planning the agenda, said the convention will go beyond the walls of Centennial Hall and into the region, such as on trail hikes and a cruise to Tracy Arm.

There are two advantages to this, she added. One is to create more informal opportunities to chat, and freedom to roam the town spreads more money into the economy.

"One of our selling points is that because it is a small town you end up running into your fellow delegates all over the place," as opposed to a larger city in which the attendees tend to "disappear" after daily meetings, Palmer said.

Juneau hotels and caterers are also active in attracting organizations to the city by offering competitive packages.

For the hotel industry and other related businesses, the fall months can be scant after the cruise ships leave and before the Alaska Legislature convenes.

"I would say October, November and December are the worst," said Leesa Castro, general manager at the Prospector Hotel. "It's really the conventions that really do bring us business in May."

Palmer added that she hopes to strengthen the fall months by booking state groups during that time.

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