Alaska prepares for what could be a record tourism year
As Alaska's summer days brighten, so too is the outlook for the state's tourism season.
Bill Swint and friends will not return home to San Antonio, Texas empty-handed.
"In our part of the country it's pretty flat, and it's also a little warm this time of year," said Swint, who is on his third trip to Alaska -- but his first visit to Anchorage.
"This has half the population of the state of Alaska, we heard coming up here, but, this is also part of the country I have never seen," Swint said.
His group will head home from Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport. This is part of the busiest time of the year as the main part of the tourist season is under way, but things are only expected to get busier.
The latest survey from AAA finds Anchorage is the third most popular summer travel destination this year, Fairbanks is seventh. Airport operators say they are ready, thanks to the airlines.
"They're looking to increase some capacity, we have some additional frequencies, which means additional seats," said Anchorage airport spokesperson Trudy Wassel.
Delta Airlines says it has increased the number of seats to Alaska this year by 5 percent compared to a year ago. Plus, it offers an extra daily direct flight between Anchorage and Seattle and Salt Lake City. Delta is the only airline that responded to KTVA's request regarding increased service to the state.
Alaska drew more than 2 million visitors for the first time in 2017 -- and state tourism leaders are eyeing another record this year.
"We hope we reach and over reach that 2-million mark again in visitors to Alaska," said Alaska Travel Industry Association CEO Sarah Leonard.
Tourism is considered the state's second leading industry. It's big business, and big bucks for those hoping to cash in on it.
"Overall, Alaska, through our visitors number, generates over $4 billion in economic activity in jobs, in revenue to local and state governments, and supporting Alaska businesses," Leonard said.
Meanwhile, Swint and his friends have enjoyed their first visit to Anchorage -- and they'll have lots of company.
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