Anchorage visitors bureau reports record year in 2001

Posted: Friday, January 18, 2002

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Despite the sharp drop in tourism after the September terrorist attacks, the Anchorage Convention & Visitors Bureau enjoyed a record year for convention sales in 2001.

The bureau is the city's main marketing organization. It sold $78 million worth of conventions, meetings and events during the year -- up 10 percent over the prior year and about about $1 million more than anticipated, said president Bruce Bustamante.

''We secured business as far out as 2006,'' Bustamante said Thursday.

Bustamante also estimates Anchorage saw at least $86.5 million in tourism sales and services. The figure represents sales from businesses that the bureau tracks and not the total amount spent by visitors to the city, he said.

Bed taxes collected by hotels generated nearly $11 million, the highest ever, Bustamante said. Of that, the bureau gets half and the other $5.5 million went to the city's general fund. Hotel room bookings were up 9 percent from 2000.

One major event that helped Anchorage last year was the Special Olympics World Winter Games in March. Spectators pumped an estimated $3.8 million into the economy, according to the bureau.

While many sectors of the tourism industry are predicting doom and gloom for the 2002 season because of terrorism fears and recession worries, Bustamante seems more optimistic.

''Anchorage and Alaska offer a mystique that is simply irresistible to leisure travelers and meeting planners.''

The bureau plans an aggressive strategy to lure people to Anchorage this summer and beyond. The goal for convention sales in 2002 is $83 million, Bustamante said.

The bureau hopes the Legislature will approve the Alaska Travel Industry Association's request for $12.5 million in emergency marketing funds.

''We're counting on that, or some amount, to achieve our goals,'' Bustamante said.

He was unwilling to speculate about whether lawmakers will approve the request given the serious financial problems the state faces. Tourism representatives plan to fly to Juneau this month to lobby for the funding, Bustamante said.

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