Alaska Travel Industry Association Fairbanks
McDowell’s Heather Haugland says, “all signs point to a really heathy 2018 season.” © 2018

Visitor numbers continue to grow, thanks to a booming cruise industry.

That means more money for state and local governments, more business for the private sector and a growing number of jobs to offset the steep losses in other economic sectors, Heather Haugland, a senior project manager at the McDowell Group, told delegates at the Alaska Travel Industry Association’s annual convention.

In a presentation titled “The Role of Visitors in Alaska’s Economy,” Haugland said, “All signs point to a really healthy 2018 season.”

Alaska greeted 1.93 million visitors in 2017, a 4 percent increase over 2016. Nearly the entire increase is attributable to more cruise ship passengers, according to Haugland.

Taxes and fees imposed on 2017’s visitors were directly responsible for $125.6 million that went directly to the state government.

Throughout Alaska, visitors spent $3.2 billion, and tourism created 43,000 jobs, an increase of 3,600 jobs since 2015.

The Interior is also the hot spot for winter travelers.

The final numbers for summer 2018 will not be here for a few months, but cruise ship passengers are expected to show an additional 7 percent increase and are projected to grow by an additional 17 percent in 2019, according to Haugland.

“That’s huge,” she said.

Cross-border vehicle traffic is expected to grow about 13 percent in 2018, from 190,074 passengers to 214,873. Those numbers include any passengers from private vehicles, whether they are residents or visitors.

Traffic is up at all border crossings, with a 24 percent increase on the Alaska-Canada Highway, 19 percent on the Top of the World Highway, 8 percent in Haines and 5 percent in Skagway.

“More indicators the non-cruise industry has sort of bounced back,” Haugland said.

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