Local chambers weigh participation in statewide tourism marketing effort

Posted: Monday, March 12, 2001

Kenai Peninsula chambers of commerce still are weighing whether to continue or increase their contributions to the Alaska Travel Industry Association and its statewide tourism marketing effort.

Mike Frost, president of the Soldotna Chamber of Commerce, said local and regional tourism marketing groups were to donate 3 percent of their budgets to the statewide group this fiscal year, 5 percent next year and 7 percent in fiscal 2003. Each chamber could have paid separately, he said.

"That wasn't going to happen, because there's no way any of the chambers had that much money to donate," Frost said.

Instead, several peninsula chambers, the Kenai Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Kenai Peninsula Tourism Marketing Council shared the cost of paying 3 percent of the KPTMC budget. The Soldotna chamber agreed to contribute this fiscal year, Frost said, but it has not yet voted whether to participate next fiscal year at the 5 percent level.

"We'll just have to wait and see where the board wants to go with it, and decide whether our money is better spent given to them, or spent through the Kenai Peninsula Tourism Marketing Council, or spent from the chamber to market Soldotna," he said. "Last year, there was concern, particularly from Seward, that some of the chambers were already strapped."

Julie Tauriainen, executive director of the Seward chamber, said the chamber's $2,400 contribution this fiscal year was a significant piece of its budget.

"That money is being used for general advertising of Alaska. It's money that would otherwise be used to advertise Seward as a destination," she said. "That money was given by our members to promote Seward, but if you can't get people to come to Alaska, they're not going to come to Seward."

Tauriainen said her board had problems with the industry association's statewide travel planner. The back included business reply cards that readers could use to request more information about particular destinations.

"They listed Anchorage, Fairbanks, Dillingham and Mat-Su," she said. "The only listing from the Kenai Peninsula was Kenai. So, unless you were specifically interested in visiting the city of Kenai, you weren't going to fill out the card to request more information.

"Their planner came out with a calendar of events. Of 101 events, there was just one on the Kenai Peninsula. That was an art show in Kenai. We didn't get very much for our money."

There was no mention in the calendar of Seward's Polar Bear Jump-Off, its Fourth of July celebration, the Mount Marathon race or the Seward Silver Salmon Derby, Tauriainen said.

"It was very heavy on events in Southeast Alaska, and I can tell you, that didn't sit well with my board," she said. "It's difficult to justify spending when you're not fairly represented."

On the other hand, she said, this is the new group's first year, and she has brought those problems to its attention.

Derotha Ferraro, executive director of the Homer Chamber of Commerce, said she believes her board of directors will agree to continued participation in the statewide effort.

"We want to see tourism marketing happen. Right now, this is the only plan," she said.

The city of Homer gives the chamber $25,000 per year for tourism marketing, she said, and that could pay Homer's contribution.

"Granted, those dollars are spent elsewhere, now," she said. "It would mean pulling the dollars from somewhere else. But you're marketing dollars are wasted if people aren't coming to Alaska. Other than the Internet, we don't spend any money soliciting Kansas City or Denver. We rely on someone else to solicit people to Alaska."

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