My Turn: Visit Alaska

Posted: Sunday, December 30, 2001

Have the vacation of a lifetime by discovering Alaska as a destination, any month of the year!

Many of you have read about how tourism in Alaska could face huge declines in business this year as a result of the tragic events of Sept. 11. Tourism is the second largest private-sector employer in the state; therefore its challenges in the months ahead could affect many of us, not just those that you would consider directly impacted. From the waitress in the hotel to the dishwasher in the kitchen, to the clerk in a downtown shop, many jobs are at stake. In addition, our convention and visitors bureaus all across Alaska partially derive their budgets from hotel bed taxes, which support marketing their communities as a visitor destination.

Many of us feel a bit unsettled and unsure about traveling this year. For those of us lucky enough to live in such a uniquely beautiful and culturally diverse state as we Alaskans do, think about a vacation close to home this year.

From the scenic beauty of the forests of Southeast to the top of the world at Barrow; from eco adventures to unforgettable cultural experiences in villages like Kiana on the Kobuk River, there are so many wonderful opportunities for exploration and fun. Consider attending a festival in one of our communities. These celebrations can be found in every corner of Alaska, every season of the year. Visit Alaska artists in their local environment. Look into a trip to Hooper Bay to see artists making the baskets that are known the world over.

People travel great distances to Alaska for hunting and fishing trips, which are known from Germany to Australia. Treat yourself to a world-class adventure, and share it with some friends.

So many possibilities are so near. Travel by a different mode of transportation this year and see Alaska, as you never have before. Ride the Alaska Marine Highway System throughout Southeast and stop along the way to walk, hike, take a scenic flight, kayak or visit a Native cultural center to learn about Alaska's First People. A trip through Southcentral on the Alaska Railroad could lead to wonderful family adventures such as whitewater rafting, camping and fishing. Interior Alaska is fantastic any time of the year! From hot summer days at Harding Lake to world-renowned aurora watching on clear winter evenings. Picture yourself relaxing at a hot springs resort, with the aurora overhead giving you a spectacular display of its awesome beauty.

Travel to the Pribilof Islands for bird-watching or to the Brooks Range for world-class hiking and camping. Spend time in our state and national parks, among the best in the world and view Alaska's wildlife in their natural habitat.

Whether you desire adventure, culture, splendor, crowds or solitude Alaska has it all.

Check out just a few of the Web sites that can get you dreaming of the vacation of a lifetime: (state tourism marketing site) (Alaska Wilderness Tourism & Recreation Assn.) (Alaska Travel Industry Association) (Alaska Marine Highway System) (Alaska Railroad)

Encourage your friends and family to make Alaska part of their vacation plans, and learn yourself about all the adventures waiting for you. They don't call it the Great Land for nothing, and with a bit of searching you will find the perfect vacation whether you are young or young at heart!! Have fun Alaskans - in Alaska this year!

Sedwick is commissioner of the Alaska Department of Community & Economic Development.

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