This year, wilderness travel and education company Alaska Discovery enters its 35th year, having survived despite its short booking season and lack of luxury travel options. Now, as Alaska Discovery faces increasing competition from cruise lines entering the region, the company has decided to remain true to its rugged and sustainable tourism roots, using those angles to get travelers off ships and onto the mainland.
"The cruise companies are very smart to take on some of
the active images of kayaking and walking on glaciers in
All major cruise lines, including Carnival, Royal Caribbean
and Princess, offer
From the beginning, Alaska Discovery touted itself as a pioneer of sustainable tourism and that concept is still integral to the company today. "The idea of Alaska Discovery was always to tread lightly," Le Bon says. "The people who started Alaska Discovery were real preservationists and when they sold it, they did it to spend more time doing conservation."
Alaska Discovery got its start when Chuck Horner, a
This commitment to ecotourism is just one way Alaska Discovery plans to compete against the more profitable cruise ships. The company is a founding member of the Alaska Conservation Foundation and also asks guests to participate in its "Dollar A Day" program by contributing one dollar for each day of the trip, which is then donated to different Alaskan ecological organizations.
At the request of customers, Alaska Discovery has softened
some of its itineraries by increasing the numbers of trips that are
lodge-based. In brochures, the company emphasizes the uniqueness of the
experiences that can only be had on land. "These are very specialized
wilderness trips that we run," Le Bon says. "We transfer you by small
plane and helicopter and goods have to be transported ahead of time. I just
went on a 12-day wilderness river trip and 11 days out of 12 we didn't see a
soul. For the entire summer, maybe 150 people run that river." Le Bon
admits that trips are fairly expensive, about $3,500 per person, including tour
guide, food and use of rafts and other equipment, due to
Alaska Discovery's offerings include expeditions on the
Tours operate in national parks, so rules for camping, kayaking and other activities are pretty strict in order to preserve the land. Trips also require physical preparation on the part of the traveler, as everything is carried individually. You might think it would be hard to find clients interested in such rugged trips, but consider that Alaska Discovery has been in business for 35 years. "Our trips are basic and remote," Le Bon admits, "but it's an absolutely amazing experience."
Information for Agents
Phone: 800-586-1911 Web site: www.alaskadiscovery.com Agent liaison: Eileen Murphy, ext. 6046 Commission: 10 percent