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Spotlight: Deborah Hansen

Deb-at-Table-July-2013Hansen: Cruise industry ‘huge’ impact on Fairbanks

Briefly describe business:
Pike’s Waterfront Lodge offers year-round lodging, meeting and event space and catering/food services to Alaska residents, tourists and business people.

When did you first become involved with the visitor industry?
Back in the early 80s, I ran a bed and breakfast in my Anchorage home, but became much more involved with tourism as the director of passenger services at the Alaska Railroad in the 1990s.

How is your business affected by the cruise industry?
In the summer, most of our clients arrive by cruise ship or on a cruise tour, so the cruise industry and ship deployments have a huge affect on us and the Fairbanks area.

How did you get your start with the cruise industry?
When I was with the railroad, I worked with the cruise companies on the pull contracts they had with the railroad. The largest clients at Pike’s are cruise companies and we are very grateful for their continued patronage of locally owned businesses.

What’s the best part of your job?
By far, the best part is sharing the “coolness” of Alaska with people from outside the state. Whether it’s posting a picture on Facebook of hot coffee vaporizing in negative -30° weather or talking to potential visitors at a travel show or escorting media.  I love sharing Alaska and the Alaska “state of mind” with visitors. It is an exotic destination, especially to people from urban areas, and that is one of our strong appeals.

What’s your favorite cruise passenger story?
It’s always funny when someone asks us about indoor bathrooms and running water, but the best is when a cruise tour guest tells us about how beautiful Denali is and how happily surprised they are with how safe Alaska is and how friendly we are. It is good that the Lower 48 remembers that we are part of the United States and Alaska national parks are everyone’s national parks. Talking to a delighted cruise passenger reminds me how happy I am to live in a gorgeous vacation destination!

What should Alaska do to better support/protect the visitor/cruise industry?
Invest in marketing dollars to keep Alaska a desirable destination.  Keep an eye on how regulations affect the cruise industry, since they bring the most people to our state, treat the cruise industry as valued partners and protect the assets that people come to see – the beautiful scenery, animals.

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