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Whittier not a threat to Kenai tourism - yet

Posted: Tuesday, May 23, 2000

When the new road to Whittier opens two weeks from now, there will be a lot of tourists turning left at the end of Turnagain Arm a few miles before they reach the Kenai Peninsula.

But that doesn't worry Kathy Tarr of the Kenai Visitors and Convention Bureau.

"I don't think it will have a detrimental effect on the Kenai Peninsula," Tarr said.

She said the lack of infrastructure and the lack of a tourism marketing machine will limit the number of people who visit Whittier, how long they stay and whether they return.

"They don't exactly have a string of restaurants or a wide selection of hotels," she said. "I don't see anyone staying in Whittier longer than a day. It's a day trip unless you have your own boat."

Without much to keep the interest of visitors, and even little things such as the limited number of parking places, Tarr thinks there may be a number of pitfalls awaiting a tourist to Whittier.

"If you have one bad experience in Whittier, you are not going to drive there two or three times a summer," she said.

However, some estimates put the number of visitors going to the sleepy fishing village on Prince William Sound to be 1.4 million, 10 times what it is now.

"That's a large chunk of people who are counted again and again," Tarr said. "That's not all separate people. That's people from Anchorage going there five times a summer."

Tarr speculated that would be the bulk of visitors to the town of 280 people.

"People who have a boat anchored there, or if they want to take a glacier tour, they'll go to Whittier," she said. "But what's to stop them from coming to the Kenai Peninsula when they're done?"

Tarr said the peninsula is still the place to go for fishing or hiking.

"Of course, there will be a natural curiosity to drive to Whittier just because you can," Tarr said. "Just how long the mystique will last is the question."

See Associated Press story Whittier braces for more tourists for more information on this story.



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