ANCHORAGE (AP) -- State tourism boosters are asking Alaskans to help ease the expected downturn in tourism this year by exploring their own back yard and by inviting friends and relatives for a visit.
The Alaska Travel Industry Association launched a radio and television campaign this week. The ads began airing around the state Monday and will run through the end of March.
''By reaching out to their friends and relatives Alaskans will assist the thousands of businesses that make up our state's visitor industry,'' said Tina Lindgren, president of the travel association.
Bookings for next summer across most sectors of the tourism industry are down 30 percent to 46 percent due to the recession and terrorism fears, the travel association said.
If the trend continues, it will likely force tourism business cutbacks and layoffs this summer, the group said.
Not everyone in the travel industry is making such dire predictions.
''It's premature to paint it black,'' said Anchorage travel consultant Scott McMurren. ''The jury is still out. If I were to put my money on it, I'd be cautiously optimistic.''
McMurren predicts that the Kenai River will still be packed with anglers in July and, with cruise ship companies slashing prices, most vessels will sail full.
But it's still wise to launch a marketing campaign geared toward Alaskans and their visiting friends and relatives, he said. Alaskans are still going to travel within the state and their relatives and friends are going to come no matter what, McMurren said.
''I'm taking reservations for my couch right now,'' he said.
The Alaska Travel Industry Association is lobbying the Legislature for $12.5 million in emergency marketing funds. The association calls the effort a ''crisis recovery plan.''
Gov. Tony Knowles has requested that lawmakers approve $9.8 million for tourism marketing. Another bill for $6 million in emergency funds is working its way through the House.
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