Bed tax numbers, 2014 visitor outlook strong

Photo/Bill Rome/CIRI Alaska Tourism

Hotels, lodges, and bed and breakfasts in the state’s major destinations had a healthy year in 2013 based on preliminary bed tax results.

When the final numbers are tallied, Anchorage is expected to have generated approximately $23.5 million through its bed tax for the year, up 3.9 percent from 2012. If the prediction made by Jan. 16 by Visit Anchorage President and CEO Julie Saupe at the marketing agency’s annual community report, it would be a growth of more than 22 percent from the $18.3 million the city collected in 2009. The $23.5 million bed tax figure would also be a record for Anchorage.

Saupe said she expects the strong numbers to continue in the coming year with “moderate” growth in 2014.

“We now have four consecutive years of travel growth and we expect that trend to continue,” she said.

Anchorage’s bed tax revenue is split evenly between the municipality’s general fund, paying down bond debt on the Dena’ina and Egan convention centers, and Visit Anchorage’s marketing campaigns.

While Alaska’s economy was largely spared from the “Great Recession” as the housing market in the state remained robust and the unemployment rate has been less than the national average for more than five years, visitors from Outside with shrinking disposable incomes stayed home more and spent less when they did travel. As a result, tourism was one of the hardest-hit industries in the state and is just now fully recovering. More than 1 million cruisers visited the state last year for the first time since 2009.

Saupe said bookings at the venues are outpacing projections made when the Dena’ina Civic and Convention Center opened roughly five years ago.

In addition to the Alaska Federation of Natives Convention, which will return to Anchorage in October, several national and international meetings will be held in the city in the coming year, Saupe said. The National Indian Education Association Convention will dovetail with AFN, she said, and bring with it about 2,000 attendees. Roughly 1,800 people will come to Anchorage for the Council of State Governments meeting in August. Another 1,400 are expected for the International Epidemiological Society meeting the same month and the National Congress of American Indians in June.

Holland America Lines’ cruise ship the ms Amsterdam will return to Anchorage and call on the city four times four times from May to August, as well.

In Fairbanks, bed tax collections were $2.53 million through November, nearly equaling the full-year total of $2.54 million for 2012, according to data available from the city. The collection total for 2011 was $2.47 million.

Last year was the first that the AFN Convention was held in Fairbanks since 2010.

Fairbanks Convention and Visitors Bureau President and CEO Deb Hickok said 2014 is off to a good start with Asian charter flights arriving for Aurora viewing tours.

The city will have a particularly busy March in 2014. Along with the Open North American Championship mushing race and month-long World Ice Art Championships traditionally held in the city, the Tanana Chief’s Conference annual convention begins March 10 and the city will play host to the 2014 Arctic Winter Games March 16-22. Fairbanks Host Society President Jeff Jacobson said the Games are expected to draw up to 2,000 youth athletes and up to 4,000 people total to Interior for the week.

A push to expand Alaska’s presence in the international tourism market — projected to outpace domestic market growth in coming years — sent Visit Anchorage representatives to Australia, New Zealand, Germany, South Africa and India, Saupe said.

“While international vacations make up about 10 percent of visitors to Alaska, we know that travelers from overseas tend to stay longer and spend more,” she said.

Elwood Brehmer can be reached at [email protected].

11/15/2016 - 3:46pm