Interior experiences slump in tourism

Figures show double-digit declines in travelers during summer season

Posted: Tuesday, August 25, 2009

FAIRBANKS - It hasn't been a good tourist season for Interior Alaska.

The number of passengers at Fairbanks International Airport fell by 11 percent to about 294,000 in the May-July period, compared to a year ago, Jesse VanderZanden, the airport's manager, told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner in a story published Monday.

The Convention and Visitors Bureau, meanwhile, expects Fairbanks will see a double-digit decline in stays at hotels and bed and breakfasts, a figure reflected in government revenue from bed taxes, said Deb Hickok, bureau president.

The decline also has been seen at tourist attractions such as the University of Alaska Museum of the North, where attendance in the May-to-July period fell by roughly one-quarter.

The evidence of the sluggish tourist season came as two cruise ship firms said they'll reroute ships next summer away from Alaska, meaning a recovery in the Fairbanks tourism market could take a couple of years.

Mary Richards, owner of All Seasons Inn bed and breakfast, saw a 20 to 25 percent drop in business this summer - a decease compounded by a hotel price war that began in spring.

Richards, president of the Bed and Breakfast Association of Alaska, said she had to make small changes, such as not putting out evening desserts for guests, and large ones such as hiring fewer people.

She will make additional changes to prepare for next summer, such as looking for cheap advertising options online.

"We're just looking for other markets, how to reach the independent travelers, how to reach those people who are cruising, and how to do it on a budget," she told the newspaper.

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