Point of View: Tourism needs your help; let us help you go big in 2021

Travel and tourism took a hard hit everywhere, and Alaska was no exception. In-state travel was the difference maker for many businesses in 2020. Alaskans traveling in their own backyards kept many places going through the leanest of months. The effects would have been much worse without you. In some of our communities, locals made up more than two-thirds of 2020 business, far higher than typical. If you hiked another trail, camped someplace different, hit the road headed in a new direction, or booked a getaway — even in your own town — thank you. It all made a difference.

There’s reason to believe that, nationally, travel will begin recovering soon. As more people are vaccinated, we could see more Americans ready to travel — and travel safely — this summer. But as you’ve no doubt seen, Alaska’s tourism businesses face a lot of challenges between now and recovery. As Alaskans working in tourism, we have our work cut out for us.

Our aim has always been to maximize the benefits — economic and beyond — of travel and tourism for our communities. We will continue to share Alaska with adventurers, and in doing so, support our communities, local businesses and Alaskans who rely on travel to make a living.

We will do everything we can to get travelers here when the time is right, and there’s reason to think that gains over last year are possible. There’s pent-up desire to travel and high interest in Alaska specifically. Travelers want scenic beauty, open spaces and parklands. We might even be able to snag some Americans who would typically head overseas, but are searching for incredible domestic options given the current uncertainties of international travel. Attracting them and convincing them to stay and explore longer is going to be more important than ever.

It’s going to take all of us. We need your help again.

Last year we asked you to show up for Alaska, to stay and play, and you did. Right now, you have a bigger and better opportunity to plan for the coming months.

If you are able to, plan and book the next adventure now. Go farther, take a longer trip, and try a new activity. In Alaska, there are many ways to go big. Twenty four national park units, 22 million acres of national forests, 3 million acres of state parks, and 33,904 miles of coastline — no way you’ve seen it all. This is the year to commit to the epic adventure you’ve had in mind and yet haven’t found time for.

We can help you find the best ways to enjoy your perfect spot and make your travel dreams a reality; it’s what we do, and it’s what Alaskans do for one another. If you aren’t sure how to make it happen, let us help you plan the trip of a lifetime.

Invite your friends and family up to share it all and take advantage of favorable airfares. We can help roll out the red carpet (and make certain they don’t spend too much time on your couch while they are here). If you’re stumped on where to send them, each of our organizations make it easier and can make it a reality this year.

If staying closer to home is your speed, we encourage you to buy local, visit your hometown tourism businesses and cultural attractions, support your favorite shops and restaurants (and test out some new ones too).

You deserve some rest and relaxation. Let us help you make the most of 2021, while you help out businesses across Alaska at the same time. You’ll be glad you did.

This opinion piece was written by members of Destination Marketing Organizations in Alaska. Debbie Speakman is Executive Director of the Kenai Peninsula Tourism Marketing Council, Sarah Leonard is President & CEO of the Alaska Travel Industry Association. Julie Saupe is President & CEO of Visit Anchorage. Patti Mackey is President & CEO of Ketchikan Visitors Bureau. Liz Perry is President & CEO of Travel Juneau. Bonnie Quill is President & CEO of the Mat-Su Convention and Visitors Bureau. Deb Hickok is President & CEO of Explore Fairbanks. Sharon M. Anderson is Executive Director of Valdez Convention and Visitors Bureau. Laurie Booyse is Director of Visit Sitka.