In advance of his budget roll-out on Wednesday, Gov. Mike Dunleavy announced tourism grants to continue the momentum of recovery for the $4.5 billion annual Alaska visitor economy.
A $5 million federally sourced grant will be part of his proposed 2023 budget, which will be directed to the Alaska Travel Industry Association, which is in addition to the $10.5 million federal grant he designated to ATIA in September.
“Last summer, visitors began returning after ATIA launched a national marketing campaign that engaged travelers to visit in the COVID-safe spaces of vast Alaska,” said Dunleavy. “In many parts of the state, we saw more travelers moving through our airports, staying in hotels and bed & breakfasts, fishing, and staying at facilities in state parks.”
A study by McKinley Research Group showed visitor volume fell by an estimated 82 percent between April and December for 2019 and 2020. From 2.4 million visitors, it dropped to just 427,000 visitors.
The economic loss from a canceled cruise ship season for Alaska is estimated to total $3 billion alone. In 2020, zero visitors arrived by cruise ship.
Early last year, when many tourism businesses were considering closing their doors, Governor Dunleavy directed $5 million in emergency CARES Act funds to ATIA to attract independent travelers to Alaska through different modes of transportation.
“ATIA is Alaska’s statewide tourism marketing leader. I appreciate how the nonprofit has collaborated with other tourism promoters and my Administration to keep Alaska top of mind for potential travelers,” Governor Dunleavy said. “I applaud the outreach work of the many other tourism visitor centers, chambers, and bureaus as well. Our joint work may be credited with bringing in tourists after the disaster and saving many small tourism businesses.”
Competitive tourism marketing grants for the Covid-safe campaign were issued to the following entities:
Tourism marketing grants:
- Mat-Su Convention and Visitors Bureau $170,385
- Explore Fairbanks Alaska $348,640
- Discover Kodiak $31,107
- Homer Chamber of Commerce and Visitor’s Center $253,489
- Seward Chamber of Commerce $179,000
- Visit Anchorage $1,630,000
- Ketchikan Visitors Bureau $527,790
- Cordova Chamber of Commerce $376,000
- Koahnic Broadcast Corporation $451,580
- Alaska Travel Industry Association $1,999,279
- Kenai Peninsula Tourism Marketing Council $410,000
- Visit Sitka, Sitka Chamber of Commerce $235,000
- Travel Juneau $574,000
- Kawerak, Inc. $941,885
- Valdez Convention and Visitors Bureau $88,290
- Spruce Root, Inc. $1,560,000
- Copper Valley Development Association $140,000
- Haines Economic Development Corporation $88,355
The funding will help Alaska’s tourism industry remain competitive, the governor said. “There’s more pent-up demand to travel globally, and we want Alaska to compete for it and to capitalize on it,” Dunleavy.
Visitors’ dollars circulating in the economy support tourism businesses, restore jobs, and generate revenue for Alaska communities.
During his announcement, reporters were told that the number of returning cruise ships is expected to hit an all-time high. Thirty ships make up the normal season. 2021 saw eight ships, the industry reports. International air service returns in summer 2022 with Iceland, Germany, and Canada restoring connecting flights in Anchorage and a potential for new service to Seoul, Korea, and Japan.
“In preparation for growth in visitors, my budget will also seek an extra $1 million for the State Parks to make sure our facilities are clean and accessible for both in and out-of-state visitors,” Dunleavy said.