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On Site at the Alaska Media RoadshowNovember 2, 2006 By: Mike Jaccarino Travel Agent
More than 40 Alaska operators on hand
The annual Alaska Media Roadshow rolled into New York City two weeks ago, and Travel Agent was on hand to pick up as much news as we could from the more than 40 operators that flew in from the Great State for the show. Here's what we got:
Alaskatours.com, the ground operator for Abercrombie
& Kent until this year, is looking to move product directly to consumers
and travel agents. This is a big change for the previously behind-the-scenes
company that has contracts with some 400 vendors around the state. The
Ketichikan Visitors Bureau said work is progressing on a new cruise ship dock
that will be ready for the 2007 season. Only two boats can dock now; the new
dock will make it three.
Interestingly, Patti Mackey says that "there are quite
a lot of reputable operators in Ketchikan that are looking to work with agents
on a pre-book basis...There is so much tour product in Ketichikan, we're not
Sometime in January, the bureau will publish a list of
willing operators agents can contact. Also, Mackey touted a new "eagle
visitors area" to open in 2007 at the Alaska Rainforest Sanctuary. Staying
in Ketichikan, Alaska Travel Adventures will debut an "authentic
steam-powered" paddle boat, the Alaska Queen, in 2007 that will make two
1/2-hour narrated cruises around Ketichikan's wateways. Call (800) 791-2673 to
Chugach Adventure Guides opened a lodge 50 miles due
last winter. The company runs helicopter ski tours, for high-end clients there
and in Girwood, 40 miles south of
Score 15 percent commissions on this innovative product that takes skiers to
the top of pristine ski runs with no ski lift.
From the Alaska Travel Industry Association, we
learned that the organization just went live with an on-line training program
that schools agents on tips for selling
to take a peek at how to become a Certified Alaska Expert.
We liked what we heard from Stillpoint in Halibut
Cove. Opened just three years ago and located less than an hour ferry ride from
Homer, it sounds like a good bet for clients with a new-age or spiritual
sensibility. Proprietors Jan and Jim Thurston infuse the lodge experience with
elements like yoga and thai chi.
Ask about the
great place for people to taste silence," says Jan Thurston. While you're
at it, ask Thurston about water color lessons; she's formerly president of the
Alaska Watercolors Society.
Skagway Tourism Director Buckwheat Donahue takes the
award for the best (and most colorful) sales pitch. The Hemingway-lookalike
wowed us with descriptions like the one he rendered on behalf of the
long-standing—and bawdy—Red Onion Saloon, or as locals refer to it, "The
"That's the best place in
dance on your lips there," he says.
More Alaska News
But from Donahue came more than just colorful aphorisms.
When asked what's new in
the rep didn't miss a beat. "Culinary," he says. "We finally
have more than a few greasy spoons."
Indeed, now complementing the Stowaway Café (which opened in
1999) is the Starfire Café. The restaurant is competing for one of very
prestigious James Beard Foundation culinary awards.
Donahue recommends the bordello tour, where buxom women
conduct clients along an upstairs tour of the old bordello portion of the
premises for $5. For another $10, they'll extend the tour to the rest of the
old houses of the ill repute in the neighborhood. (As if it needed to be said,
none are still operating!)
Pearson's Lodge in
be featured on the Learning Channel's Extreme Weddings program on Feb. 14,
2007. The lodge does about 55 weddings a year, half of which are held on top of
a nearby glacier. Owner Dianne Pearson is a marriage commissioner (she can
officiate at the ceremony) and a certified wedding planner.