Alaska Expects Banner Year for Cruise Tourism

Alaska Expects Banner Year for Cruise Tourism

by M.T. Schwartzman
on April 26, 2023
Last updated: 9:45 AM ET, Wed April 26, 2023

Alaska expects a banner tourism season this summer, led by a
resurgence in cruise arrivals. That was the message at Experience Alaska, a
media event in Manhattan sponsored by the Alaska Travel Industry Association
(ATIA) featuring more than a dozen cruise lines, destinations and other travel
suppliers from across the state. The event was held in-person for the first
time since before the COVID-19 pandemic began in spring 2020.

“We have tons of pent-up demand,” said Jennifer Reisfeld,
Public Relations Manager for Holland America Line. In response to feedback from
past passengers, the line has introduced a program of “Legendary Voyages”
lasting 25-59 days. “Guests want longer voyages,” she noted. In Alaska, this
will include a new 28-day “Arctic Circle Solstice” cruise in 2024 aboard the
Westerdam that calls in 12 Alaska ports. The cruise, which departs June 9
sailing roundtrip from Seattle, is the first of its kind for the line and has
been “selling really well from the moment it was announced,” she said.

At Princess Cruises, the line was equally enthusiastic.
“This is the first year being back [from COVID] that is in full operation,”
said Public Relations Manager Briana Latter. “So we’re definitely anticipating
a big year,” she said. The line has seven of its 15 ships in Alaska for 2023
including the Discovery Princess, its newest, back for a second season. All
five wilderness lodges are also open, she added.

Not surprisingly, Alaska’s ports of call and other
destinations are expecting big visitor numbers, too. The Ketchikan Visitors
Bureau is projecting 1.4 million cruise passengers, surpassing its pre-COVID
numbers. Significantly, 28% are expected to come through Ward Cove, the new
docking facility seven miles north of town.

Over in Juneau, Midgi Moore, owner of Juneau Food Tours,
reported that “we’re doing really well. The food tours are doing good; we’re
selling out.” In addition to her culinary walking tours, Moore now offers Jeep
tours for small groups of two to four.

In Southcentral Alaska, things are looking up as well.
“We’re expecting a record year,” said Julie Saupe, President and CEO of Visit
Anchorage. While some communities are concerned about over-tourism, Anchorage
has plenty of room to grow. “We have the space,” she said. The city is
expecting more ships at higher load factors than last year. Independent travel
is strong, too. “So we’re expecting a banner year,” she reiterated.

Echoing these comments was a representative from the Alaska
Railroad, which links Anchorage and Fairbanks along the popular tourism
corridor known as the Railbelt. “We’re looking at a strong year,” said
Marketing Communications Manager Meghan Clemens. “We’re seeing more independent
travelers coming back to Alaska, and they’re excited about train travel.”

And in Fairbanks, Alaska’s self-described “farthest north
cruise port” due to its position on many cruise-tour itineraries, interest is
also high. “Our hotels this past year have done record business based on
pent-up demand,” reported Explore Fairbanks Public Relations Manager Jerry
Evans. “People are still a little hesitant with overseas travel,” he noted,
explaining that has meant fewer inbound travelers from China and Japan coming
to see the northern lights. “But that demand is being made up for by travelers
from the U.S.,” he concluded.

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