Two Alaska Native corporations announce tourism joint venture

Posted: Friday, March 31, 2000

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- Two of Alaska's largest Native corporations are getting together to open a resort hotel near the entrance to Denali National Park and Preserve.

Cook Inlet Region Inc. and Doyon Ltd. announced Thursday that they intend to jointly expand their tourism ventures.

Topping the list are plans to build the full-service hotel, with around 350 rooms. It would open in 2002. CIRI and Doyon also plan to bid on a major National Park Service concession contract in Denali currently held by Philadelphia-based Aramark.

The concessions, which include Denali's tour buses, a maintenance building and gift shop, generated $13 million in gross revenues last year, Park Superintendent Steve Martin said.

''The core of it is the bus services into the park,'' Martin said. ''About 275,000 people went into the park on bus service provided (in 1999) by Aramark.''

Nearly 387,000 people visited the park last year, or about 46,000 more than in 1996, said Jane Tranel, a National Park Service spokeswoman.

Denali is Alaska's third most popular tourist attraction after Juneau's Mendenhall Glacier and the Ketchikan Totems, according to the state tourism division.

The corporations are considering four possible building sites for the resort. All are on private land within about 15 miles of the park entrance. The corporations plan to acquire about 200 acres for the facility.

Planning is still in the preliminary stages. But the corporations said they intend to build a high-quality inn, similar to CIRI's Talkeetna Alaskan Lodge, which opened last year on Denali's south side.

''We see the resort hotel as being rustic but an upscale type of lodge,'' said Barb Donatelli, executive vice president of Anchorage-based CIRI. ''We want accessibility to hiking trails.''

CIRI formed a tourism division three years ago, and its holdings now include Kenai Fjords Tours, Prince William Sound Cruises and Tours (formerly Stan Stephens Cruises), the Seward Windsong Lodge and the Talkeetna Alaskan Lodge.

CIRI earned $51 million on gross revenues of $251 million in 1998. It is involved in construction, oil field services, telecommunications and natural resources. It also has a 50 percent stake in Hyatt Regency Resort Hotel at Lake Las Vegas.

Fairbanks-based Doyon Ltd. owns the Kantishna Roadhouse, about 90 miles inside Denali, and the Denali River Cabins, a 105-room facility and RV park to the north.

Aside from tourism, Doyon also owns Doyon Drilling and Doyon Properties. The Native corporation for Interior Alaska grosses more than $70 million annually.

''We both have the same commitment to Alaska and to provide jobs for our shareholders,'' said Doyon president and chief executive Rosemarie Maher.

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