Tourism marketing could be in line for $2 million

Posted: Wednesday, March 27, 2002

JUNEAU (AP) -- Alaska's tourism industry could receive some emergency funding from the Legislature after all, a key Senate leader said Tuesday.

Senate Finance Co-Chairman Dave Donley said he will propose $2 million for the Alaska Travel Industry Association to pay for an ad campaign to attract vacationers to the state.

This comes after a House bill to give $6 million to the industry stalled in the Senate. Donley said the recent proposal is more palatable.

''Taken as a whole, I think they've submitted a reasonable proposal at the $2 million level,'' Donley said Tuesday.

Donley said he will attach the request to a ''fast track'' supplemental budget that goes before the Senate Finance Committee on Wednesday.

The supplemental funding request also includes funds for the Alaska Marine Highway System and the state's power cost equalization program.

The travel industry association had asked for $12 million in state funds earlier this year to counter a doom and gloom prognosis for this vacation season.

The travel industry has been forecasting a poor tourist season nationwide this year due in part to travel fears from the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

International tourism groups have said early bookings have been down sharply. In Alaska, tourism officials report a similar drop. An association survey showed early bookings in every sector of the state's tourism industry are down by an average 24 percent.

Tina Lindgren, ATIA president, said some of the drop can be accounted for by vacationers planning trips later in the year. But she said the industry is still likely to suffer a downturn in business.

''Across the board, businesses are still seeing quite a bit of lag behind last year,'' Lindgren said.

The tourism plan approved in the House hit a snag in the Senate as cruise ship companies began reporting improved advance bookings for the season.

European travel is expected to dip significantly this summer prompting some cruise ship companies to move ships to Alaska's waters.

Senate President Rick Halford, R-Chugiak, said earlier this month that the proposal did not have support from majority Republicans.

The association is requesting $1.89 million for an intensive two-month advertising campaign with national cable stations and another $153,000 for other tourism activities.

The group said through an impact statement to Senate Finance that the association has no more money for television advertising this year to wage a campaign in April and May.

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