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Alaska tourism: Cruise ships still king


Daily News Staff Writer

For the country’s second-youngest state, older travelers are essential.

Tourists generally trend older — as people near or past retirement age have both the means and the time to travel — but this age group is particularly represented in Alaska’s cruise industry.

For Ketchikan, this means most of its visitors will be at least 56 years old, according to Joe Jacobson, director of the Alaska Division of Economic Development, and many will be 63 or older.

Cruise traffic accounted for 58 percent of visitor traffic statewide, according to Jacobson, or 967,500 of the state’s 1.66 million tourists.

While cruise ships will bring most of the state’s visitors to Alaska, that other form of marine transportation — the Alaska Marine Highway System — will bring the least. More visitors came to Alaska through Canada on highways than came via ferries, Jacobson told an audience of Ketchikan Visitors Bureau members on Friday.

For bringing tourists to Alaska, the ferry system is “an important part of it,” he said, “but it’s a very small part of it.”

In the First City, about 884,000 visitors came by cruise ship in 2014, and 940,000 are projected for 2015.

Air travel remains a small but growing part of Ketchikan’s tourism industry, according to the Division of Economic Development, which is stepping up a campaign for winter travel in Alaska.

Demographics are critical when spending state advertising dollars. In the current fiscal year, the Alaska Division of Economic Development has budgeted $4.8 million for consumer advertising and an additional $4.85 million on television spots.

The primary target for Alaska vacation advertisements is between 45 and 65 years old, wealthy, college-educated and married, according to Jacobson. He or she is a frequent traveler.

“We are branching off more into adventure travelers and highway travelers, but really the bread and butter of the program is focusing on the primary target market,” Jacobson said.

The state has a large pool of potential travelers to which it can pitch, Jacobson said. Of the United States’ 316 million residents, 24 percent are potential travelers.

Of those 75.8 million people, 18 percent, or 13.6 million, are considered likely to visit the state, according to Jacobson, and most are concentrated in the West and the South.

“We’re getting … more and more repeat visitors,” he said. “Those repeat visitors are really a critical part of our marketing strategy.”

In 2006, more than 30 percent of all Alaska tourists had come at least once before. By 2011, that number had reached almost 50 percent — and those people will come to Alaska more than three times in their lives, on average, Jacobson said.

Online advertising and social media are getting more attention from Jacobson’s division.

While hard copy advertising — direct mail, brochures and glossy vacation planners — still bring more people to the state, he said, television, online ads and the state’s travel website — which is online in six languages, including English — continue to reach growing segments of the population.


Link to original article Ketchikan Daily News:

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