Holland America to open Denali hotel

Posted: Thursday, August 16, 2001

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Holland America plans to open a 300-room hotel at the entrance to Denali National Park and Preserve, according to a company official.

Terry Bichsel, senior vice president of Holland America Tours, said Wednesday the cruise line will formally announce plans for the new hotel within a month or two and expects to have the place open for summer 2003.

Holland America's plans for the hotel have derailed plans for a similar resort that two Alaska Native corporations were going to build.

Last year Holland America bought 25 acres overlooking the Nenana River, which is where it will build the lodge, Bichsel said. The hotel will sit between the Denali Princess Wilderness Lodge and the McKinley Chalet Resort, in the shadow of North America's tallest peak.

The Denali lodge will be Holland America's 10th hotel in Alaska, making it the biggest hotel company in the state, Bichsel said.

Holland America hasn't decided yet whether to brand it a Westmark hotel, as it has with its other properties. Most of the clients at the Denali hotel will probably be passengers on Holland America tours.

''When you're Holland America and you build a resort like this, you have built-in customer flow,'' Bichsel said.

Cook Inlet Region Inc. and Doyon Ltd. announced last year they planned to worth together to build an upscale hotel near Denali. Their hotel was supposed to open next summer.

But the Holland America project, along with another new hotel that opened at Denali this summer, and slower-than-expected tourism growth, have scuttled those plans, CIRI and Doyon executives said.

Doyon, a regional Native corporation based in Fairbanks with 14,000 shareholders, owns two tourism businesses around Denali, the Kantishna Roadhouse and Denali River Cabins. Anchorage-based Cook Inlet Region Inc., also a regional Native corporation, has several tourism investments, including a four-star hotel in Talkeetna, south of the national park.

The companies decided last spring that the project was not economically feasible, said Jim Mery, Doyon's vice president of lands and natural resources.

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