Alaska's Denali National Park & Reserve is made up of more than 6 million acres of wilderness
With the unsettling news from the Alaska Travel Industry Association (ATIA) that visitation in 2009 will be off anywhere from 10 to 30 percent during the state’s high season from May to September, tour and cruise operators are going into high gear offering deals to combat what is shaping up to be one of the state’s slowest travel seasons on record.
In response, the ATIA is launching what it calls an “emergency campaign” to market Alaska travel values heavily this winter and spring. The campaign’s centerpiece is the newly developed website www.alaskashottestdeals.com, which will be regularly updated with specials and deals offered by the 1,100 member businesses that make up the association. Television advertising and public relations efforts will also herald the deals available for travel to Alaska this year.
Of course, as everywhere else, the worldwide economic crisis is at the heart of the expected decline in visitation to Alaska. With more and more people choosing “staycations,” the state’s travel industry is working hard to demonstrate to consumers that an Alaska trip is a better deal this year than ever.
“The reports we’re hearing from our members are alarming,” said Ron Peck, president and COO of ATIA. “Bookings are coming in very slowly right now. We’re hoping this campaign will change some minds and convince people that a vacation to Alaska is really more affordable and accessible than they may think.”
With cruise lines and tour operators cutting prices and adding value—along with the 50th anniversary of statehood promotion—the ATIA is advising agents that this year could be a good time to sell your clients on an Alaskan vacation.
Holland America's MS Oosterdam sailing to Hubbard Glacier
While trying to remain positive in this challenging environment, there have been some unhappy developments in the Alaska cruise market. Royal Caribbean announced that it would be pulling Serenade of the Seas out of the region in 2010. The move will leave two Royal Caribbean ships—Radiance of the Seas and Rhapsody of the Seas—in service in Alaska next year; the loss of Serenade, which will make 20 Alaska trips this year, could cost the state an estimated $37 million in passenger and cruise line revenue. Also, small-ship line Cruise West announced that three of the line’s eight ships that normally sail in Alaska would not return this summer.
Still, there are plenty of deals available for cruisers in 2009. On Holland America Line, guests can travel on select Alaska CruiseTours for 50 percent off the original price, with deposits reduced by 50 percent. When booking an inside stateroom, guests can upgrade to an outside stateroom from $50 and third and fourth guests in a stateroom are 50 percent off the regular CruiseTour fare. In Vancouver, B.C., travelers can add a deluxe downtown hotel room night onto their tour for as low as $50.
With 29 different itineraries varying in length from 10 to 20 days, CruiseTours include a scenic cruise of the Inside Passage and a land tour to a wide range of places throughout Alaska and the Yukon. Tours go to major cities of Anchorage and Fairbanks, wilderness areas in the Yukon, Denali National Park, the Kenai Peninsula, Alyeska, the Arctic and Homer. Visit the website for more information on these deals.
And, for its final year of service in the waters of Alaska, Royal Caribbean’s Serenade of the Seas will be offering 15 percent discounts on all shore excursions, as well as $100 off oceanview accommodations and higher on select sailings. Prices start at $549 for the seven-night Alaska Hubbard Glacier cruise, departing from Vancouver, B.C.
Other lines are also offering excellent rates on Alaska cruises, with Carnival starting at $449 for seven-day cruises, and Norwegian Cruise Lines and Celebrity pricing from $499 for seven days, all with added values such as on-board credits and early booking discounts.
Anchorage Museum to Expand
Another reason to sell your clients on Alaska, particularly if they have a cultural bent or are traveling with kids, is the $106 million expansion of the Anchorage Museum, which brings a new era to one of Alaska’s premier visitor attractions with the completion of an 80,000-square-foot wing and renovation of the existing building by early 2010. Included in the museum are the Smithsonian Arctic Studies Center, housing an exhibition of rare Alaska Native heritage objects from the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History and the National Museum of the American Indian; the Bob and Evangeline Atwood Alaska Resource Center, including the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation Reading Room, featuring 500,000 historic photographs and 10,000 books; the Imaginarium Discovery Center, an interactive science discovery center (rendering below); the Thomas Planetarium; and a new and expanded café and gift shop.
The museum is seeking silver-level certification in Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), the nationally accepted standard for an energy-efficient and sustainable building. If achieved, the museum will be the first LEED-certified building in Anchorage.
The museum will be closed March 31 through May 29, and will reopen on May 30 with the traveling exhibit “Gold,” featuring a dramatic array of 300 extraordinary geological specimens and cultural objects from around the world, and presenting the intriguing scientific and cultural story behind this precious metal.
The Anchorage Museum’s summer hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. Admission is $8 for adults, $7 for seniors and military, free for museum members and children ages 17 and younger. Tickets to the “Gold” exhibit cost an additional $12 adults, $7 members, $5 ages 3–17, and $9 for groups of 20 or more. For more information, call 907-343-4326.