With visitors to Alaska at an all-time high, tourism is growing here.
Alaska tallied 1,966,700 visitors between May 1, 2013 and April 30, 2014, according to the Alaska Division of Economic Development.
The previous record came to 1,961,500 — 5,000 fewer — in 2007-08.
This represents the most significant period of growth in a single year since 2005-06. It’s also the third consecutive year of growth after the 2008, 2009 and 2010 periods affected by the recession.
The Alaska mystique is responsible for much of the visitor interest in Alaska, but it wouldn’t produce record-breaking numbers without effective marketing. It also requires an open-for-business attitude, particularly when dealing with the airlines and cruise lines carrying visitors to the state.
The fall and winter visitor volume for 2013-14 also saw an increase, about 4 percent above 2012-13, mostly related to an increase in international travel out of Fairbanks where Japan Airlines now flies.
Domestic visitor exits out of the state increased by 4 percent between 2012-13 and 2013-14, mostly out of Anchorage. But Ketchikan also experienced a 4 percent increase.
The Alaska Marine Highway System reported being down 24 percent for the most recent fall-winter. That represents a loss of 400 visitors, a decrease from 1,700 to 1,300.
Non-resident ridership declined 17 percent in fall-winter 2013-14; that followed a fall-winter season with an 11-percent increase. AMHS officials attribute the decrease to reduced sailings to and from Bellingham and Prince Rupert.
More than half of the visitor volume for 2013-14 (all seasons) can be attributed to the cruise lines; 51 percent or 999,600 visitors came to Alaska via cruise ship and another 4 percent (85,700) by AMHS ferry. Air travel accounted for 45 percent (881,400).
The numbers speak to the value of the cruise ship industry in Alaska; it ferries the majority of visitors to and around the state. But more than the industry, it’s a validation of Alaska — not only its incredible scenery and natural resources, but its attitude toward the visitor and the businesses that accommodate visitors.
Alaska has it when it comes to a place to see and experience.
— Ketchikan Daily News,