Off-Season Tourists,0428 Study: Thousands visit Anchorage but few see, do or spend much

Posted: Wednesday, November 15, 2000

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- A recent survey of winter air travelers shows that thousands of in-state business people flock to Alaska's largest city during the tourism off-season.

That's good news for the retail stores and restaurants that are trying to ring up more sales. The bad news is that many of the business travelers don't do much during the day or two they spend in town, according to data compiled for the Anchorage Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Joy Maples, a spokeswoman for the visitors bureau, said the solution is to persuade those repeat business travelers to stay longer and get out more.

''They don't know about the things to do,'' Maples told the Anchorage Daily News. ''We are challenged to try and get that information to them.''

The McDowell Group survey shows that an estimated 443,000 travelers flew to Anchorage between November and April. A little more than half of their flights originated within the state.

About 25 percent of those in-state travelers came to Anchorage from Fairbanks, the survey said.

Winter air travelers spent an estimated $214 million in the city last winter -- mostly on lodging, dining, gifts and transportation, the survey said. The average spending per visitor was just under $500.

The most popular outings for those who did recreate was shopping, the Alyeska Ski Resort and movies. Just under half of those surveyed said they didn't do any recreating or attend any events, the survey said.

The study provides some baseline numbers that will help the visitors bureau evaluate whether its in-state marketing is effective, said Donna Logan, survey project manager for the Juneau-based McDowell Group.

The survey categorized visitors into four groups: business travelers, business and pleasure travelers, vacationers and those who came to be with friends or relatives.

About 85 percent of the travelers had been to Anchorage during the previous 12 months. Nearly a third of the visitors had flown to the city between five- and 20 times.

The McDowell Group's Logan agreed that the trick was to turn the seasoned business travelers into business and pleasure travelers.

''That will involve trying to develop a strategy for those people who know Anchorage, but maybe have not explored all of the city and what there is to do,'' Logan said.

Getting air travelers to do more and see more in Anchorage would pump additional money into the local economy, officials said.

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