Don't let winter's chilly temperatures cool your enthusiasm for the Kenai Peninsula. With local community calendars filled year-round with activities, this is a great place for visitors, according to Faron Owen, executive director of the Kenai Peninsula Tourism Marketing Council.
But making peninsula tourism a year-round industry is going to take some work. At the Anchor Point Chamber of Commerce Wednesday luncheon, Owen spoke about the decline in visitors to Alaska during 2000, but, rather than delivering a message of doom and gloom, he highlighted steps KPTMC is taking to turn those numbers around.
"Fifty-nine percent of the people that inquired about Alaska, actually visited (the state) during the past 12 months," Owen said.
That's down from 74 percent in 1999, he said, adding that one reason for the drop is increased competition.
"Tourism is big all over the world," Owen said. "Airline prices are falling, making other areas more accessible."
Comparing Alaska with its southern neighbor, Owen reported that Hawaii's tourism budget totals $51 million.
"The goal in Alaska is to have a $10 million budget specifically for marketing," he said.
In 1999, the state of Alaska contributed approximately $5.86 million to the effort, with other communities also pitching in. The Kenai Peninsula added approximately $11,000 to the statewide effort, which helps pay for peninsula ads in the Anchorage Visitor Guide, the state vacation planner, Reader's Digest, Alaska Magazine and Home and Away, an American Automobile Association publication.
"KPTMC works hard to pull visitors to the peninsula," Owen said.
Research done 11 years ago reflects that approximately 67 percent of the people Alaska hosts come to Southcentral Alaska; approximately 50 percent come specifically to the Kenai Peninsula. The peninsula's three biggest in-state competitors are Anchorage, Denali and Fairbanks.
To turn that around, the council is spreading the word in state that the peninsula is a fine place to visit, no matter what the season.
"During the peninsula tourism conference, we tried to get (the keynote speaker) a halibut charter, but we couldn't find one open the end of September," Owen said, adding that increasing in-state visitors would enable summer-only businesses to operate all year.
Three new weapons are helping spread the word that the peninsula is a great place to visit any time of the year: a full-color booklet entitled "Kenai Peninsula Weeken-der," a recreation map that will be ready for distribution May 1 and a new World Wide Web site, www.thisweekend.org. The booklet and Web site target short-term visitors who arrive Friday and return home Monday.
KPTMC also has added some small business-friendly changes to its advertising costs and is increasing the number of events the council sponsors, including the Peninsula Winter Games, scheduled for Feb. 2 through 4.
"It's an old event that probably would have died this year if we hadn't taken it over," Owen said.
He also pointed out that increasing the number of peninsula visitors doesn't rest solely on KPTMC's shoulders.
"Everyone involved in tourism needs to get involved," he said. "Talk to your borough assembly members. Talk to your legislators. You need to be active."
For more information, Owen can be contacted at 283-3850 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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