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Spotlight: Dan Oberlatz

Dan Oberlatz, founder, Alaska Alpine Adventures

Dan Oberlatz, founder, Alaska Alpine Adventures

Oberlatz: Share Alaska through new media

Briefly describe business: 
Since 1998, my company has been operating multi-day adventures throughout Alaska’s national parks and wildlife refuges.   We specialize in adventure itineraries in Southwest and Southcentral Alaska and the Arctic, but we also partner with K2 Aviation on an amazing four-hour, fly-in hiking adventure in Denali National Park.

When did you first become involved in the visitor industry?  
Like many in our industry, I came to Alaska first as a tourist in the early ‘90s.  When I moved to Alaska in 1994, I worked at a lodge on Lake Clark, and then for the National Park Service in Port Alsworth before starting my company in 1998.    

How is your business affected by the cruise industry?  
Not only does the cruise industry bring customers to our day-hiking adventure with K2 Aviation, but the industry also brings tens of thousands of first-timers to Alaska each year.  The statistics show that many of these passengers return on future trips as independent travelers, which positively impacts businesses like mine and the rural Alaska businesses we use to support our trips.  Furthermore, some of our guests add one of our tours to their existing cruise itineraries – thus creating an ultimate Alaska vacation experience!

How did you get your start with the cruise industry?
It’s fair to say that my involvement with the cruise industry has evolved arithmetically as my business has grown.

What’s the best part of your job?
I still guide four or five trips a year, and that’s what I really love about my job.   For 15 straight years, I’ve guided at least one new trip somewhere deep in remote Alaska and that has helped feed my passion for true wilderness exploration.  Most of those trips have been in Lake Clark National Park, which I think is the most amazing place in Alaska.

What’s your favorite cruise passenger story? 
A couple of years ago,  a couple who had taken one of our 10-day backpacking trips in Katmai National Park and had then continued on a cruise down the inside passage sent us their annual Christmas card.  On the card were side-by-side pictures of them with backpacks in Katmai’s Valley of 10,000 Smokes next to them dressed to the nines aboard some large cruise ship.  It was an awesome visual reminder that there’s more potential in Alaska’s tourism market than meets the eye.

What should Alaska do to better support/protect visitor/cruise industry?  
Alaska needs to continue to support the visitor industry by direct investment in a 21st century marketing program.  Sharing Alaska with the world through new media will not only help grow our industry, it will also help to build a constituency of people willing to protect the destinations we rely on.   My primary concern is continuing the efforts to enhance tourism opportunities in rural Alaska, and continued investment in marketing the State of Alaska will go a long way toward assuring that.

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