Anchorage welcomes AFN delegates

Posted: Monday, October 20, 2003

ANCHORAGE - The 38th Annual Alaska Federation of Natives Convention is expected to bring about 4,500 delegates and other participants to Anchorage later this month.

The visitors will generate an estimated economic impact of more than $4.1 million in the city, according to the Anchorage Convention and Visitors Bureau.

The Youth and Elders Conference will be held Oct. 20-22, hosting about 1,000 participants who will spend about $839,000, said Erika Biringer, the bureau's public relations manager.

The convention from Oct. 23-25, with 3,500 delegates, will pump more than $3.3 million into local businesses, she said. Both events are at the Egan Convention Center.

"It's the 'Big One' for the Anchorage convention industry," said Jim Henderson, the bureau's vice president of sales and marketing. "AFN pretty much selects the dates that they want years in advance, and then we fill in other state conventions around them."

Hotels, shops, restaurants and service providers in Anchorage are looking forward to an early autumn business bonanza.

"It's extremely important and it also comes at a very, very valuable time of year for us," to help launch the fall and winter convention season, he told the Alaska Journal of Commerce.

Bill Dugdale, general manager at the Westmark Anchorage Hotel, said room reservations were picking up in early October.

Across town, at the Dimond Center Hotel, general manager Tracy Wiley is enticing convention visitors and vendors with special room rates, and a promotion with the nearby Dimond Center shopping mall.

"If they book a hotel room, they can get a booth for the cooperative crafts show sponsored by the center the weekend prior to AFN week," he said. "So folks can put their trade booths here for the weekend, then move down to the Egan Center. They get a double hit."

The upscale, 109-room hotel is owned by Seldovia Native Association Inc., and this summer completed its first year of operation. Wiley said room reservations related to the convention were fairly light in early October, but he expects a repeat of last year with late bookings.

Delegates who fly all the way to Anchorage from outlying communities for the convention do plenty of shopping.

"We do see an increase in business because of that," said Dick Snyder, manager of a Costco warehouse store in Anchorage.

"For some people, this is the only time of the year they come into town, or one of the few times. A lot of it is food items, some of it is Christmas shopping; they buy electronic items, you name it," he said.

Delegates need a way to get around town, and that's good news for Tony Allen, general manager of Affordable New Car Rental.

"We keep a rental line chart on the wall, and every year in the third week of October there's a little bump," Allen said.

Delegates who don't want to bother with a rental can hail Joe McMullian or one of his colleagues motoring taxis around the city. McMullian, 35, started driving Alaska Cab No. 11 this year, and this will be his first AFN convention.

"The other drivers all tell me it gets really, really busy," he said while waiting for a fare outside a downtown hotel. "They say it's one of the busiest times of the year, so I'm looking forward to it."

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