Kenai Peninsula tourists trending older, staying longer

Tourism is bouncing back from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic

Tourists are coming back to Alaska.

“Domestic leisure travel has recovered,” Sarah Leonard, executive director of the Alaska Travel Industry Association, said Thursday during a panel held at the Kenai Peninsula Economic Development District’s Industry Outlook Forum. “We’re out of the pandemic, at least for the tourism industry.”

Leonard gave an update on tourism trends in Alaska and on the Kenai Peninsula during the forum, which was held in Homer.

She said that on a national scale, tourism is bouncing back from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, and that national fears of a recession haven’t yet impacted people’s plans to travel in the coming year.

Leonard shared preliminary findings from an ongoing survey of travelers from the United States to Alaska, beginning in May of last year, and set to continue until April.

The findings so far indicate that visitors to the Kenai Peninsula are more likely visiting for leisure than other areas of the state. In the Kenai Peninsula, 86% of visitors surveyed were visiting for leisure, compared to an average of 72% statewide.

Those visitors are also staying longer. Leonard showed data that indicated that across five defined regions of the state, the average visit was as few as 0.1 nights in the Arctic region and as high as 4.8 in Southcentral. In the Kenai Peninsula, the average is 6.8 nights.

Leonard also shared a breakdown of visitors by age. Leonard defined four age groups, which are from youngest to oldest: “Gen Z,” “Millennial,” “Gen X,” and “Boomer or older.” The results she shared indicate that a significant number more “boomers” are coming to the Kenai Peninsula than the rest of the state, and far fewer Gen Z. In Alaska as a whole, 38% of visitors are boomers and 6% are Gen Z. In the Kenai Peninsula, 49% were boomers, and fewer than 2% were Gen Z.

“Your visitors are a little older,” she said.

More than half of visitors to the Kenai Peninsula stayed in a hotel, and the top two activities reported were wildlife viewing and local cuisine.

The Regional and State Tourism Update panel, as well as the other panels from the KPEDD Industry Outlook Forum, can be viewed online at “Kenai Peninsula Economic Development District” on YouTube. This panel begins around the 52-minute mark of the full stream archive.

Reach reporter Jake Dye at