Study shows tourists in 2001 spent $1.4 billion in Alaska

Travel industry group indicates this year's numbers likely to be lower

Posted: Wednesday, August 28, 2002

ANCHORAGE - Tourists spent $1.4 billion in Alaska, or about $1,166 each, during the 2001 season, according to a study by the state Department of Community and Economic Development. It said about 1.2 million people came to Alaska during the year.

It was the first such study since 1993, when the state found that 861,000 visitors spent $598 million, or about $694 each.

This tourist season isn't likely to reach those numbers.

Visitors are more cautious with their dollars this summer due to factors like the struggling U.S. economy and travel concerns following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, said Ron Peck, president of the Alaska Travel Industry Association.

"We are hearing that people are not spending as much," Peck told the Alaska Journal of Commerce.

Visitors' centers and border crossings also report declines from last year.

The state survey was part of a yearlong $621,000 state-funded study intended to provide demographic and spending information for tourism businesses.

The tourist spending portion of the survey was conducted from May 1 to Sept. 30 last year.

Participants rated trip-planning references like travel books, and also ranked potential destinations for their next trip to Alaska.

Denali National Park and Preserve led in destinations tourists planned to visit next time, according to the study.

The survey results, part of the Alaska Visitor Statistics Program, provide particular insight about travelers to the state, said Lillian Ruedrich, project assistant at state Department of Community and Economic Development.

"Many states must rely on modified national data," Ruedrich said. "This is very specific to us. We have our own report."

Vicki Malone, president of Alaska Tour and Travel of Anchorage, has used information from state research reports for the last 20 years.

"It's definitely something we use," Malone said of the recent survey. "It gives you very good insight into what (visitors') interests are and how you can tailor your product to meet their needs."

Caryl McConkie, tourism program manager at the state Division of Community and Business Development, said Alaska-specific research, rather than national trends, helps measure economic impact and the success of tourism promotion efforts.

Another state report, also prepared by Anchorage-based Northern Economics Inc., attributed the recent increase in visitor numbers to growth from the cruise segment. Other methods of arriving in Alaska posted declines in recent years.

The largest category of tourists only saw Southeast Alaska. The second-largest group of visitors took a bigger trip, making combined stops in Southeast, Southcentral, the Interior and Denali Park.

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