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Tourism officials say next year's outlook is grim

Posted: Friday, November 23, 2001

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- Alaska's tourism industry needs state help to compete with international destinations for an expected drop in vacationers traveling next season, the state's top travel industry official said.

The Alaska Travel Industry Association plans to ask the Legislature for $12 million in emergency funds to market the state to vacationers, said Tina Lindgren, president and chief operating officer of the association.

''If we're to compete, we are going to have to get out there and make some kind of dent,'' Lindgren said.

While it's hard to tell how much visitor traffic will drop next summer, a quick travel association survey conducted after Sept. 11 shows there will be losses, Lindgren said.

Other popular vacation spots such as Florida, Oregon, Hawaii and Las Vegas have undertaken aggressive marketing strategies.

And Canada, the nearest competitor for vacationers, is also taking steps. The Canadian Tourism Commission has received $35 million in emergency marketing money to aid tourism there, Lindgren said.

Fear of traveling and concerns about the nation's economic future will keep some potential Alaska-bound travelers home, Lindgren told a group at the Fairbanks Convention and Visitor Bureau.

''A lot of it is about consumer confidence,'' Lindgren said, adding that people are saving money and planning to stay closer to home.

Tourism is the second largest employer in the state and the third largest in terms of economic impact, Lindgren said. She said a 10 percent drop in visitors to Alaska equates to more than $108 million in lost expenditures in the state.

But Lindgren said it's not all bad news for Alaska destination spots. Tourism has always bounced back after major incidents that affect travel such as the Gulf War, she said.

Alaska tends to be an attractive alternative to European vacations when there is a war going on, she said. Families may choose a driving vacation and Alaska could benefit from independent visitors, Lindgren said.

Four major cruise ship tour companies have decided to relocate ships to Alaska from Europe and the Mediterranean and cruise lines are offering discounted fares.



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