Fairbanks Tourism Sees Modest Gains: International Traffic
FAIRBANKS — Labor Day marks the end of summer, and, traditionally, the end of tourist season. As Fairbanks prepares to head into a long, dark winter, local businesses are assessing how their businesses fared in the 2011 season.
“The last two years we were up, slightly up. This year we were still slightly up — it’s been a decent season but we had to work really hard to make that happen,” said Doug Kenney, sales and marketing manager for the Sternwheeler Tanana Chief.
Kenney said he markets heavily to locals to make up for a decrease in independent travelers.
“It seemed like the local stuff was just as good as usual but there wasn’t as much walk-through, out-of-town tourism.”
When asked how the summer season went for his business, Matt Atkinson, marketing coordinator for Northern Alaska Tour Company, said, “We thought it was going to be a recovery year, up more than what it is. We were thinking it would be a 10 to 20 percent jump up, but it was actually less than 10 percent.”
Atkinson noted that his company saw an appreciable increase in international traffic.
“It feels like a lot more Australians were booked. Southeast Asia, too — university kids from India and some from Pakistan. China is starting to come into it. We’re also starting to see some Eastern Europeans, and we occassionaly have Italian and French.”
Other tourism-based businesses in the Fairbanks area mentioned the rise in international tourists.
“Independent contact has gone down but international travelers, booking through agents, are up. I’ve had a lot less random people from the Lower ’48. I’m doing more German, Swiss, Austrian and independent Japanese travelers,” said Cory Eberhart, proprietor of Taste of Alaska Lodge.
Nixie Doan, owner of The Fudge Pot, said she and her staff have noticed a lot of German, Asian and Australian tourists, as well as visitors from Brazil and France. Even so, her business is still down from what it was last year.
“It’s just been down, it’s been pretty hit and miss. The numbers haven’t been all that great,” said Doan.
Deb Hickok, president and CEO of the Fairbanks Convention and Visitors Bureau, said international tourism has been the “bright spot in the whole summer scenario. It’s up approximately 10 percent, which is very much a sign of the weakened American dollar. When you look at domestic travel, whether it’s cruise, land or independent, it’s slightly down or flat.”
Hickok said she is reluctant to give an assessment of the summer visitor season until she has received final figures. Those numbers will not be available until January, she said.