"Anyone visiting The Kenai could be considered lucky," says Kenai Peninsula Tourism and Marketing (KPTMC) executive director Shanon Hamrick. "This is the most beautiful place on Earth." But even the most beautiful place on Earth saw a down turn in visitors last year according to Hamrick. "We did take quite a hit last year. We were down about 25% in gross revenues to the Borough from tourism businesses, and about 25% for taxable revenue. We are slowly starting to see a turn around and we are hoping for a better summer this year. We are optimistic at this point, but complete recovery will probably take a few years," Hamrick told the Soldotna Chamber luncheon recently.
At the Soldotna Chamber of Commerce meeting one visitor from the lower 48 who came to the Kenai Peninsula in 2009 got a recession-proof return trip to Alaska. Wayne Grossman, of Cottonwood, Arizona, was drawn as the winner of KPTMC's Passport to Adventure on The Kenai contest. "The Passport to Adventure began as a way to help celebrate the Kenai Peninsula's role in Alaska's 50th Anniversary of Statehood. The Kenai Peninsula Tourism Marketing Council, headed up the project on behalf of the AK50 On The Kenai Committee. The concept was simple: a passport-sized document that highlights 13 of The Kenai's diverse communities. Each community had a unique stamp associated with it, and visitors had to travel to at least 10 of these communities, obtain a stamp and they would then be eligible to enter to win the grand prize of a Kenai Peninsula vacation for the following year. The book was also chalked full of coupons from area businesses," explained Hamrick.
The winner received round trip airfare for two from the Continental United States to Anchorage; travel between Anchorage and Seward on the Alaska Railroad Coastal Classic Train; two nights lodging at Hotel Seward, admission for two to the Alaska SeaLife Center and a Kenai Fjords Cruise for two with Kenai Fjords Tours; one night's lodging in Sterling and a one day fishing trip on the Kenai River for two with Big Sky Charter and Fish camp; a one night's lodging in Homer with the Goofy Moose Cabins and one day of Halibut fishing with Arctic Envy Charters. "The passport project was so successful that it has been extended for another year, and KPTMC has doubled the print run from 10,000 copies to 20,000 to meet the high demand," said Hamrick. 2010 passports will be available to residents and visitors in early April at Kenai and Soldotna visitor centers or at the KPTMC offices. For more information stop by the KPTMC offices in Soldotna or call 262-5229 or log on to www.kenaipeninsula.org . "Pick one up or stop by. Get out and visit your own back yard this year and you may be next year's grand prize winner," added Hamrick.
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