The year is just getting underway, but president and CEO of Visit Anchorage, Julie Saupe, says the outlook for tourism in 2019 is already positive.

Saupe addressed a group of community members at the Dena'ina Center on Thursday. Her speech focused on two areas: what tourism looks like in 2019, and how Visit Anchorage will work to make the city the kind of place people want to visit.

Travelers are more tech savvy than ever before. People have always shared their vacation stories with friends and family, but those conversations are now enhanced by technology that keeps everyone more connected.

"We know that recommendations from friends and family mean more than any ad, article or sales effort we can buy," a transcript of Saupe's address stated.

Many popular tourist destinations are overcrowded, leading to opportunities for destinations like Anchorage, according to Saupe's prepared remarks.

She said Anchorage has about 300,000 residents, and sees about 1 million visitors in a year, a ratio of about 3 to 1. Barcelona's 1.6 million residents see 32 million visitors, a whopping 19-fold influx, according to Saupe.

For visitors who are used to crowded Times Square or packed cafes in Amsterdam, Alaska remains a wide-open space where travelers can take a break from the masses.

In order to attract the modern tourist, Saupe says Visit Anchorage has already made some changes and will continue to make more in the future.

Travelers have more options for travel than ever before, so there's an emphasis on authentic experiences. But Saupe says developing those experiences isn't just about dollars; it's about a mindset.

"We've made a change recently to better focus our work in this area," the speech transcript shows. "Our Community, Member and Visitor Relations department is now Member and Destination Services."

Saupe says the change signals Visit Anchorage's efforts to make the community more attractive to visitors.

"Developing the destination can be as important as spreading the word about it," according to the transcript. "And building a place travelers like means creating a better place for residents."

An upcoming project will put solar panels on the roof of the Egan Center, modernizing the often-used space while also cutting costs.

Another of Visit Anchorage's goals in 2019 is continuing to develop a relationship with China. The Active America China event is slated for March at the Anchorage Hilton and will have about 60 Chinese buyers attending.

Detailed reporting on last year's performance will be provided in the Visit Anchorage annual report, which is due in May.

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