Strong turnout expected for Alaska's convention season

Posted: Tuesday, September 03, 2002

ANCHORAGE - Most Alaska event organizers expect the upcoming convention season to be a good one, despite concerns stemming from the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

The attacks made people less inclined to travel to faraway places, but many still want to visit Alaska, said Julie Dodds, a convention sales manager at the Anchorage Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Last year, Alaska's major cities earned roughly $95 million from convention business and 2002 could see similar results, officials told the Alaska Journal of Commerce.

Anchorage recorded $81 million in economic impact from conventions held last year, although some fall events were canceled or poorly attended after Sept. 11. The city has seen convention business double over the past decade. The Anchorage Convention and Visitors Bureau said it sold meetings worth $31.4 million in 1990 and $70.4 million in 2000.

Meetings of people from within the state represent the largest portion of Anchorage convention business. The city's largest event, the Alaska Federation of Natives annual meeting, is scheduled for Oct. 21-26 this year. The event attracts up to 5,000 participants.

"We're gearing up now for fall season," said Karen Zak, general manager of Visions, an Anchorage firm that coordinates meetings and events. "The season starts in September and runs nonstop through March."

The Fairbanks Convention & Visitors Bureau says the fall outlook is fairly strong. Conventions manager Jennifer Jolis said the Interior city will host two major events this month. The Alaska State Chamber of Commerce should attract about 500 people with an estimated economic impact of up to $310,000, Jolis said. The meeting runs Sept. 24-26.

The Pioneers of Alaska annual convention Sept. 18-20 is also expected to bring 500 participants and could be worth $250,000, she said.

During 2001, meetings and activities brought roughly $6.4 million to Fairbanks, Jolis said.

National trends following Sept. 11 are influencing Juneau's convention business, said Lorene Kappler, president and chief executive at the Juneau Convention & Visitors Bureau. Many conventioneers are looking at sites within driving distance, which poses a challenge for Juneau.

"Our booking levels aren't as high as in the past," Kappler said.

Most recent statistics show meetings and conventions brought $6.4 million to Juneau in 1999, Kappler said.

Two major events this fall should benefit area businesses. The American Indian Tourism Association meeting is set for Sept. 28 through Oct. 1, and the Alaska Travel Industry Association is scheduled for Oct. 8-10. Each event could attract up to 500 delegates, and each could have an estimated economic impact of $900,000, Kappler said.

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