Kenai City Hall on Feb. 20, 2020, in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Victoria Petersen/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai City Hall on Feb. 20, 2020, in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Victoria Petersen/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai nixes tourism stimulus program

The council cited ‘unexpected recovery’ of tourism and hospitality industries

The Kenai City Council voted last week to indefinitely postpone an economic stimulus program that would have targeted the city’s tourism and hospitality industries.

The council cited information suggesting that those industries are recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic and no longer need the assistance.

The program, which was approved for introduction by the council at their June 2 meeting, would have used $205,600 to offer vouchers to people who bought a single tourism, travel or hospitality service in Kenai, to be used on a second purchase at that business.

In targeting the program to tourism and hospitality, city administration said those industries were particularly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. However, Kenai City Manager Paul Ostrander told the council last week that those industries are doing better than expected.

Kenai Peninsula Economic Development District Executive Director Tim Dillon testified in support of the program during the council’s June 16 meeting and said it would put more money into local small businesses.

“This is another program where you guys are in front of the rest of the state,” Dillon said. “I support this wholeheartedly.”

Kenai City Manager Paul Ostrander said Wednesday that when he first proposed the program to the city council in January, the goal was to provide additional support to industries hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We felt strongly at the time that the hospitality and tourism industries were the hardest hit and every indication we had, both in the state … and nationally, is that these were some of the industries that were the hardest hit,” Ostrander said.

However, Ostrander said the most current information suggests those industries are doing OK.

“Occupancy rates are very high, lodges are full, guides are … incredibly busy,” Ostrander said. “Many of these industries that we thought would be impacted more severely by COVID, it appears that there’s unexpected recovery of this industry.”

Ostrander said he had reservations about the introduction of the legislation approving the program during the council’s June 2 meeting and that “internal discussions” and a hefty tourism and marketing grant from the state helped further inform his recommendation to suspend the program.

Council member Jim Glendening said he agreed with Ostrander’s assessment and that additional funding at this point in time would be “redundant.”

“As I look around our city, I can see there’s quite a bit of economic activity,” Glendening said.

The City of Kenai offered multiple economic stimulus programs over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, including one that incentivized shopping at local businesses and another aimed at helping people buy groceries. Those programs were similar to ones offered in Soldotna and in Seward.

The council voted unanimously to suspend the program by postponing it indefinitely. The council’s full meeting can be viewed on the City of Kenai’s YouTube channel.

Reach reporter Ashlyn O’Hara at

More in News

David Brighton (left) and Leslie Byrd (right) prepare to lead marchers from the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex to Soldotna Creek Park as part of Soldotna Pride in the Park on Saturday, June 3, 2023 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Soldotna celebrates LGBTQ+ pride

The event featured food trucks, vendors and a lineup of performers that included comedy, drag and music

Judges Peter Micciche, Terry Eubank and Tyler Best sample a salmon dish prepared by chef Stephen Lamm of the Kenai Peninsula Food Bank at Return of the Reds on Saturday, June 3, 2023, at the Kenai City Dock in Kenai, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai celebrates ‘Return of the Reds’ in food bank fundraiser

Chefs competed for best salmon recipe; fresh-caught fish auctioned

A freshly stocked rainbow trout swims in Johnson Lake during Salmon Celebration on Wednesday, May 10, 2023, at Johnson Lake in Kasilof, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Excellent lake fishing, good halibut and slow salmon

Northern Kenai Fishing Report for June 1

Map via Kenai Peninsula Borough.
Assembly to consider emergency service area for Cooper Landing

Borough legislation creating the service area is subject to voter approval

Peter Micciche (center) listens to the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly certify the results of the Feb. 14, 2023, special mayoral election, through which he was elected mayor of the Kenai Peninsula Borough, on Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2023 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Thousands respond to borough services survey

Many of the survey questions focused on the quality of borough roads

Two new cars purchased by the Soldotna Senior Center to support its Meals on Wheels program are parked outside of the center in Soldotna, Alaska, on Wednesday, March 30, 2022.(Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion file)
Soldotna budget defunds area senior center

The unanimous vote came after multiple people expressed concerns about how the center operates

An Epidemiology Bulletin titled “Drowning Deaths in Alaska, 2016-2021” published Wednesday, May 31, 2023. (Screenshot)
Health officials say Alaska leads nation in drowning deaths, urge safe practices

A majority of non-occupational Alaska drownings occur in relation to boating, both for recreation and for subsistence

Chief J.J. Hendrickson plays with Torch the cat at the Kenai Animal Shelter on Thursday, Feb. 10, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)
Soldotna, Kenai to extend animal control partnership

So far this year, the Kenai shelter has served roughly 190 animals

Transportation professionals tour the Sterling Highway and Birch Avenue intersection in Soldotna, Alaska, on Monday, May 22, 2023. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Soldotna brainstorming pop-up pedestrian safety project

The temporary project aims to boost pedestrian safety near Soldotna Creek Park

Most Read