Deb Hickok is President and CEO of the Fairbanks Convention & Visitors Bureau (FCVB), a destination management organization with the mission to be an economic driver in the Fairbanks region by marketing to potential visitors and optimizing the visitor experience.
When did you first become involved in visitor industry?
I started as a destination marketing professional in 1982 for the Pocono Mountains resort region. I worked in the Pennsylvania travel industry in various capacities – including public relations manager for the state tourism office – until I left in 1999 to work in Alaska at FCVB. (During summers while in high school and college, I was a wait server.)
How did you get your start with the cruise industry?
While in Fairbanks. According to the most recent Alaska Visitor Statistics Program, 58 percent of the summer 2011 visitors in Fairbanks were from the cruise “transportation market.” Two of our major, full-service hotels open year round are owned and operated by the Holland America (Westmark) and Princess corporate family.
What’s the best part of your job?
Being able to live and breathe every day in a destination that people long to experience. From the light of the midnight sun to the aurora borealis, we inhabit a place that’s extraordinary. In the heart of Alaska, Fairbanks is a lot about the warmth of the people. We share the rich history and present lifestyle of a community of rugged individualists shaped by the wilderness that surrounds us. Their energy is palpable. Visitors appreciate our cultural attractions as well as the personal stories told by Athabascan Alaska Natives, dog mushers, pioneers and gold miners, riverboat captains, ice sculptors, visual and performing artists, and many more. Customer feedback is that meeting “real Alaskans” is a highlight of their trip. Regarding marketing and product development, there’s always the wonderful challenge of “what else can we do” to promote year-round visitation to Fairbanks, Alaska’s Interior and the Arctic.
What’s your favorite cruise passenger story?
There are so many! Like many Alaskans, I especially treasure reconnecting with friends and family who take an Alaska cruise. My favorite story is yet to come. For example, this summer I’m looking forward to welcoming a dear former colleague from Pennsylvania tourism and his wife while they are here in Fairbanks for a cruise land tour.
What should Alaska do to better support/protect the visitor/cruise industry?
Alaskans should have widespread respect for the incredible opportunities that the cruise industry provides for Alaska owned and operated small businesses, their families and employees. The Legislature needs to work with the governor and the industry to establish long-term sustainable funding for destination marketing.