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Anchorage tourism: Gains in 2019, reinvestment in 2020

  • Author: Julie Saupe
    | Opinion
  • Updated: January 21
  • Published January 21

Tourists wave as an empty Alaska Railroad gravel train heads back to Mat-Su for more cargo on Monday afternoon, June 20, 2016, at Ship Creek. (Erik Hill / ADN)

Tourism had a strong year in 2019, and that meant big benefits for Anchorage. Last year was one for the record books, both in financial terms and in more subtle ways felt far beyond the balance sheet. We recently summed up tourism in 2019 and looked ahead during Visit Anchorage’s annual Report to the Community. Whether you work in tourism, or simply help with a warm welcome to visitors you pass on the street, the accomplishments of the last year are yours.

There is certainly plenty worth celebrating. Tourism is one of the bright spots in Anchorage’s economy, and we intend to keep it that way. Visit Anchorage focuses on maintaining strong demand for Anchorage as a vacation or meeting destination, and maximizing the benefits for Anchorage.

In financial terms, we anticipate hotel stays in Anchorage will generate approximately $31.2 million in municipal bed taxes for 2019. Combined with local vehicle rental taxes, Anchorage should see approximately $38 million in tax collections for the year from tourism. More than $18 million stays in the general fund, paying for projects and services we all enjoy. In addition, the bed tax pays for and maintains the convention and civic centers. A portion of the bed tax is also reinvested in tourism marketing. This marketing powers future growth and has proven to be a sound strategy for Anchorage for 44 years now.

Aside from tax revenue, travelers spend $297 million per year in Anchorage on visits, and that doesn’t include the cost of the transportation that got them here. Leisure and hospitality employment hit record levels in Anchorage in 2019, with modest gains predicted this year.

Numbers tell a good story, but tell only part of our story. Visitation helps increase the number of cities connected to Anchorage by airlines. It helps local businesses grow, flourish and expand. It allows us to share Alaska’s stories, traditions and lifestyles and connect with those of travelers from all over the map.

It’s going to be a tall order to repeat the kind of performance we saw last year, but the early indicators point to solid returns in 2020. We are reinvesting our gains with broader marketing and sales efforts. In the year ahead, we will continue to focus on strengthening demand, aided by new research into our best potential travelers, their perceptions of the destination, and what they hope to get – and give – during a visit.

We will also advocate for projects that help make travel better for our community, from Eklutna and Eagle River to Girdwood and the Portage Valley, and all points in between. We’ll partner with local businesses and entrepreneurs to foster new and novel travel offerings. And, of course, we’ll help travelers understand why they should visit long before they arrive. Our aim is to make life here better. That work benefits visitors and improves things for residents at the same time.

We need your help. We want our whole community to provide the best reception, and everyone has a part to play welcoming travelers. Creating a place people want to visit helps makes this a place we can all enjoy.

Julie Saupe is president and CEO of Visit Anchorage, the destination marketing organization representing Anchorage, Girdwood, Eagle River, and all communities in the municipality. Saupe is a lifelong Alaskan with a career devoted to Alaska travel.

The views expressed here are the writer’s and are not necessarily endorsed by the Anchorage Daily News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, email commentary(at)adn.com. Send submissions shorter than 200 words to letters@adn.com or click here to submit via any web browser. Read our full guidelines for letters and commentaries here.

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