Juneau, Alaska (KINY) Gov. Bill Walker wants to spend $12 more to promote Alaska tourism.
Governor Bill Walker announced today plans to increase funding for the Alaska Travel Industry Association (ATIA) after years of substantial budget cuts. Due to the fiscal crisis, ATIA has been operating at a reduced level, forgoing the opportunity and revenue that comes from a robust investment in one of Alaska’s most important industries: every dollar spent on tourism promotion generates $58 of visitor spending, $21 in income for Alaskans, and $2.84 in state and local revenue.
Re-investing in Alaska tourism marketing comes at a time when visitor interest is on the rise, and new international markets, especially in Asia, are growing quickly. Increasing funding for Alaska tourism means establishing representation in markets where we’ve had to pull back over the last four years (before the fiscal crisis, ATIA was funded at $16 million), and taking advantage of opportunities for Alaska to participate in the tourism boom.
The Opportunity Alaska: China Trade Mission earlier this year highlighted Alaska’s rising appeal to visitors from across the Pacific. Alaska’s traditional tourist season is the summer, but new visitor markets are equally interested in what Alaska has to offer in the winter, from skiing and snowboarding to hot springs and Northern Lights. Pan-pacific cargo flights continue to increase, and direct China-Alaska flights are on the horizon, growing opportunities for visitors. A portion of these funds will be used to make these direct flights a reality. “With more than 80 percent of the deficit fixed, it’s time to start re-investing in Alaska and grow the economy,” Governor Walker said. “We need to let the world know that we are open for business.”
Tourism is the cornerstone for many small businesses in Alaska. Restaurants, breweries, sightseeing, guiding, hotels, B&B’s, car rentals, gold panning operation in small towns and urban centers all benefit from tourism marketing to the rest of the United States and across the globe.
In addition to this state support, ATIA remains committed to pursuing additional sources of revenue. ATIA has a long history of being innovative and resourceful, and will leverage this investment to draw on a diverse range of funding options. Alaska’s current tax on vehicle rentals also partially offsets this investment: visitors to Alaska’s communities generate $12-15 million a year to the state budget through car rentals. The tourism industry is Alaska’s second largest private sector employer, after the oil and gas industry, providing 47,000 jobs on top of $2.7 billion in direct visitor spending and $4 billion in total economic activity.