Economy Bites into Alaska Tourist Travel

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July 14, 2009 by   - () Leave a Comment

As predicted, the dismal economy in the Lower 48 has prevented many visitors from traveling to Alaska this summer, and many locally owned businesses around the state are suffering as a result, according to Anchorage Daily News

"It's looking kind of scary. People are telling us that there are businesses that aren't going to make it," said David Worrell, a spokesman for the Alaska Travel Industry Association

Early-season statistics show that independent travel to Alaska is down significantly. Fewer people flew to Stevens International Airport in Anchorage. And Madeline Kelleyhouse, who manages the chamber of commerce visitor center in Tok, has recorded a roughly 10% decline in visitors to the Tok visitor center along the Alaska Highway. The tally of traffic crossing through the nearby U.S.-Canada border crossing is unavailable. 

denali_camping_1Scott Reisland, a Denali campground, cabin and RV park owner, said he had to lay off half of his staff and his family is chipping in longer hours to keep the business afloat. At the end of June, his company, the Denali Grizzly Bear Resort, shown at left, had only half of the bookings it had at the same time last year. 

"In our 41-year history as a family-owned business, we've never had such a bad year," Reisland said. 

Anchorage's visitor statistics for June aren't available yet, but the statistics for May — the first month of the tourism season — were grim. 

  • Roughly 11% fewer people got off a plane at the Stevens International Airport, according to state officials. 
  • Car rentals at the airport were down 25%. 
  • Anchorage hotel revenue was down roughly 22%, according to the city's visitors bureau. 
  • About 25% fewer people visited Anchorage's five visitor information centers, which are run by the bureau. 
  • Bookings on the Alaska Railroad are down 10-15%, year to date, according to the railroad.
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