North to Alaska? The rush is on.


It’s no longer Klondike-era gold nuggets they’re after, but the gold that comes from mining tourism.

Airlines, cruise agencies and chains together with Cabela’s and the Hard Rock Cafe are heading north to Alaska hoping to cash in on a rising tide of site visitors to the Land of the Midnight Sun.

After 3 consecutive years of boom, Alaska’s traveler matter reached an all-time excessive of almost 2 million visitors between May 1, 2013, and April 30, 2014, consistent with the Alaska Division of Economic Development.

Those 1,961,seven-hundred traffic beat the 2007-20008 report by using 5,000 human beings.

“For many country wide brands including Hard Rock, Alaska felt too far away to be relevant to increasing a countrywide presence and lots of idea it might be too hard to run a a hit department in the country,” said Calum MacPherson, location vp of operations at Hard Rock International, “but we’ve seen a shift in current years.”

Hard Rock now sees Anchorage as a “thriving, up-and-coming city this is uniquely positioned with a growing and flourishing cruise enterprise” he stated. He additionally stated that the neighborhood populace become listed through the Census Bureau as having the state’s 2nd-maximum median profits in 2011.

After a gentle commencing early this summer time, the Hard Rock Cafe Anchorage will have a grand beginning Sept. 19 at its downtown Anchorage vicinity at Fourth Avenue and E Street, that's wherein the long-distance Iditarod sled dog race starts every 12 months.

Hard Rock Cafe Anchorage_courtesy Hard Rock International

Earlier this year, Cabela’s opened a 100,000-rectangular-foot keep in Anchorage selling looking, fishing and outdoor tools with flora and fauna displays, an aquarium, indoor archery range, a mountain replica, deli, fudge keep and other tourist-pleasant points of interest on-site. Bass Pro Shops, with a wetlands nature center, filled animals, an aquarium and different visitor-pleasant capabilities, opened an outpost in July.

The new tourism file for Alaska turned into boosted by way of increases in the variety of cruise visitors, greater air provider, increase in wintry weather travel and an aggressive kingdom-led tourism advertising and marketing campaign, said Joe Jacobson, director of the nation’s Division of Economic Development.

Close to a million site visitors toured Alaska by means of cruise deliver last yr, lured by means of outstanding surroundings, not to say a reduction in the nation’s passenger head tax from $46 to $34.50.

“After that, many ships back to Alaska and new ships entered the market,” Jacobson stated. Holland America brought departures that added 6 percent extra visitors in 2013 over 2012, Celebrity Cruises despatched one in all its new Solstice Class ships to Alaska for the primary time and new ships entered the marketplace, he said.

Increased air service helped Alaska raise tourism numbers as well. Virgin America and Icelandair entered the marketplace with provider to Anchorage, and several other companies (JetBlue, United and Delta,) multiplied the variety in their Alaskan flights.

One wide variety that isn’t growing is the age of the average traveller.

The most current Visitor Statistics Program record that looked at demographics (2011-2012) found that the average age reduced slightly, from 51.6 to 50.7, between 2006 and 2011.

“The glaciers took my breath away,” stated Renee Brotman, a leadership coach and organizational consultant from Goodyear, Arizona, who lately visited Alaska on a cruise and is already making plans a go back journey. “Juneau and Ketchikan are such charming small cities. You can stand in the middle of the road and look up and see wonderful mountains all round you.”

Looking ahead, Alaska’s Division of Economic Development doesn’t do a formal tourism forecast. “But because changes in cruise ship deployment have a big effect on the Alaska traveler market—fifty one percentage of yr-spherical traffic and 59 percent of the summer time marketplace—cruise industry schedules for Alaska provide a great indicator of what to expect,” said Caryl McConkie, the organization’s development specialist.

Cruise Lines International Association Alaska anticipated that the nation will see 972,000 cruise visitors at some point of 2014, as compared with 999,600 all through 2013, due in element to the redeployment of Princess ships to Asia.

“Strong early bookings for 2015 imply that we may additionally make up for some of the loss of passengers in 2014,” McConkie stated, “Princess is replacing the Island Princess with the larger Ruby Princess in 2015, growing lower berth ability through simply over 1,000 passengers in keeping with voyage.”

Climate alternate may help the 2016 cruise season heat up as properly.

Since the Nineties, expedition-fashion cruise organizations along with Polar Cruises, have provided sailings on smaller ships (with as much as 199 passengers) that depart historically plied Alaska waters to explore Iceland, Greenland and sections of the Northwest Passage, which connects the Pacific and the Atlantic Oceans.

In 2016, Crystal Cruises plans to be the first luxurious line to navigate the Northwest Passage path.

During a cruise from Aug. sixteen to Sept. 17, 2016, the 68,000-ton Crystal Serenity, which includes 1,070 passengers, will tour from Anchorage/Seward to New York City, through Arctic waterways historically no longer navigable via massive ships.

On its internet site, Crystal explains that a cruise is now feasible due to the fact the “amount of ice inside the Northwest Passage has declined substantially over the years, specifically on the cease of the summer season inside the southern reaches of the Passage,” growing a window of time when its thirteen-deck vessel can have minimal threat of going for walks into “ice concentrations.”

Prices for the voyage start at $19,975 in line with individual.

(My story about tourism in Alaska first appeared on CNBC Road Warrior).

In Alaska: good-bye sled dogs; howdy airplanes.

Alaska Aviation

Undated iciness view of Wien Alaska Airlines airplane with musher and canine group in foreground. Image credit score: Wien Collection/Anchorage Museum


One hundred years after the first powered flight in Alaska, the Anchorage Museum on Saturday opens a prime exhibition celebrating the wealthy and excellent stamp aviation has had on the Frontier State.

That history started out as a spectacle. In 1913, several Fairbanks traders got together to deliver a biplane from Seattle to Alaska by way of steamboat. They then bought tickets so onlookers should watch barnstormers fly the plane two hundred ft above the ground at a lazy forty five mph.

Ten years after that first powered flight in Alaska, Anchorage officials declared a vacation so humans should come out and help clean land for the metropolis’s first airstrip.

“In the early days, Alaska become a very inaccessible, remote vicinity, with very few roads and a few dog sled trails crisscrossing the territory,” aviation historian Ted Spencer instructed NBC News. “With airplanes, though, mail might be introduced in hours as opposed to weeks. Remote village and towns can be linked. Life modified fairly.”

The showcase, Arctic Flight: A Century of Alaska Aviation, showcases photographs and artifacts — consisting of leather and fur-covered outfits worn through bush pilots and the tires and handmade skis imaginitive pilots connected to bush planes to allow them to land on glaciers and frozen lakes.

Even empty fuel cans, cloth, crates and other flight-associated objects deliberately or unintentionally left in the back of had an impact in remote places. “Those gadgets have been used to make fixtures, clothing and family objects which might be still round,” said Julie Decker, the museum’s leader curator. “In Alaska, humans are very sensible.”

Bush pilots have become heroes in small cities and villages, Decker stated. “They have been a connection to the outdoor global and they could deliver things to locations in which things could by no means get brought before,” she stated.


This Stearman C2B biplane was flown by means of several mythical Alaska bush pilots along with Joe Crosson, the first pilot to land on Mount McKinley, and Noel Wien, founder of the kingdom’s first airline. Image credit score: Eric Long/Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum



Pilots had been also actual-existence Alaskan characters that had to be skilled inside the air and on the floor. “They needed with a purpose to not simplest fly the planes, however restoration them. And they wished that allows you to live on in the cold and within the desert,” stated Decker. “Imagine how hard and hearty they needed to be in the early days of flying whilst the planes had open cockpits and it was forty degrees beneath 0 – on the ground.”

Other artifacts on exhibit encompass a Stearman C2B biplane flown by numerous legendary bush pilots, ephemera and memorabilia from a number of former Alaska-based air carriers, a 1927 movie clip from the primary aircraft to fly over the North Pole, and bits of airplane crash wreckage, including pieces from the 1935 crash that killed famed aviator Wiley Post and entertainer-slapstick comedian Will Rogers close to Barrow, Alaska.

And at the same time as upgrades in generation have made flying plenty safer than it was when that biplane first came to Alaska, Decker says “weather trumps all” and that flying small or big planes in Alaska can nevertheless present an impressive challenge.

“The state is just so big, with all forms of water formations, substantial and rugged landscapes and severe, unpredictable weather. Even with current airplanes, GPS and radio communications, there are still crashes and planes nonetheless occasionally disappear,” Spencer stated.

“Alaska remains a risky place to fly.”

My story: Goodbye sled dogs, hi there airplanes. Alaska marks one hundred years of aviation records first appeared on NBC Travel.



Sarah Palin’s Alaska? Or your Alaska?

In writing Alaska has high hopes for ‘Sarah Palin’s Alaska’ for this week I saved thinking if someone can outshine an area.

Alaska dog sled postcard

Sarah Palin might say, “You betcha.”

When it involves an area as huge and as lovely and as unpredictable as Alaska, though, I’d have to say “no way.”  Nothing can outshine Alaska. But with regards to luring tourists, some greater highlight movement can’t hurt.

Here’s the story:

“[A] nature series for political voyeurs,” the New York Times proclaimed. “[M]ore than simply your common nature series,” stated the New York Post. “A hybrid of journey journey, documentary — and, regardless of Palin’s protests, fact TV,” delivered USA TODAY.

The surprisingly expected “Sarah Palin’s Alaska” debuted Sunday night on TLC. The eight-element series functions the former Alaska governor and Republican vice presidential candidate, her family — and the pretty scenic kingdom of Alaska.

Some TV viewers couldn’t wait to see the display. Others stated they wouldn’t track in. “I haven't any aim of watching it,” said Nancy DeWitt of Fairbanks.

“It may be hard now not to observe,” predicted Toronto resident Dian Emery, who likened it to using by a car coincidence.

But many people inside the Frontier State are a ways extra inquisitive about the show’s capacity impact on tourism.

Palin produces
When it involves promoting Alaska as a vacation spot, Palin is a verified producer. “She sincerely does love Alaska and, irrespective of her political leanings, her ardour for her home country shows whilst she talks about it,” said Kathy Dunn, director of purchaser advertising for the Alaska Travel Industry Association (ATIA).

“During the 12 months Palin became the GOP vice-presidential candidate, there has been a four percentage growth in the wide variety of people expressing interest in journeying Alaska,” Dunn stated. “Our advertising and marketing price range and advertising components had been more or less the same as the earlier year, so we characteristic lots of that hobby to the fact that Gov. Palin was setting Alaska inside the country wide spotlight.”

That highlight shone brightly on Palin’s place of birth of Wasilla. This past summer, Palin-related souvenirs and guided tours have been popular with visitors. Bonnie Quill, director of the Matanuska-Susitna Convention and Visitor Bureau, noticed quite a few humans status in the front of the “Welcome to Wasilla” sign, posing for pictures. “That could in no way were a visitor pastime earlier than Palin’s repute,” she said.

“Forget Mount McKinley and canine mushing,” stated Scott McMurren, writer of the Alaska TourSaver journey discount ebook. “When a person from Alaska goes everywhere inside the global and those find out we’re from Alaska, it’s all approximately Sarah Palin.”

The manufacturers of the “Sarah Palin’s Alaska” hope her celeb popularity remains high profile and bankable. So do tourism vendors which includes Kirsten Dixon, proprietor of the Within the Wild Adventure Company, which operates 3 far off accommodations in south valuable Alaska.

Palin’s crew spent a day filming at one in all Dixon’s inns, so she has already reaped a few gain from having the TV series set in Alaska. Now Dixon is ready to look if there could be a measurable uptick in enterprise that may be tied to the show. “We have a bear-viewing hotel. Sarah Palin saw bears on the show. We’re hoping visitors would possibly have an hobby in crafting that identical kind of revel in,” Dixon stated.

Ready for its close-up
In the TLC series, Sarah Palin and family set out for nicely-documented adventures of fishing, looking, canine-sledding, glacier mountain climbing and extra.

“Anything that increases the interest in Alaska as a pristine and wild surroundings — which is simply what we’re selling — is a plus,” stated Ron Peck, president of ATIA. “It’s all about additional publicity for our destination.”

Throughout the series, all Alaska has to do is take a seat there searching rugged, wild, majestic, pristine and image-e book quite. It’s a function the state’s surroundings has performed earlier than, maximum these days on “Deadliest Catch,” a famous Discovery Channel show about fishing crab in Alaska’s Dutch Harbor. Then there’s the History Channel’s “Ice Road Truckers,” which tracks a set of lengthy-haul truck drivers alongside the treacherous course among Fairbanks and Prudhoe Bay.

Peck is aware of a lot of people at the political left will in no way watch Sarah Palin’s new show. But he additionally is aware of there are masses of humans on the proper who will. “There are folks who adore Sarah and will activate the display simply because it’s Sarah,” he said, “however I’m maximum inquisitive about those individuals who fall in the mild middle. They may activate the program and benefit an interest in coming to Alaska simply due to the fact they see it inside the show.”

Play like Palin
Most of the adventures Sarah Palin experiences in the series may be recreated by using viewers. To that quit, the producers of the series plan to post background records, hyperlinks and sources approximately a number of the activities, locations and carrier providers from each display on the series website. Additional records approximately Palin-fashion adventures may be determined on Alaska’s authentic tourism internet site.

“Alaska tourism has taken a tough hit inside the recent financial downturn and a variety of us assume ‘Sarah Palin’s Alaska’ is probably proper for tourism and the state,” stated Mercedes Theuer, a Fairbanks resident spending a 12 months doing graduate work in Washington, D.C.

On Friday, Theuer changed into adamant she became now not going to observe the display, but on Sunday night time, she and her boyfriend ended up turning on the TV. “Yes, we have been looking Palin’s show,” she said 10 mins after it started. “Call it morbid curiosity.”

Alaska volcano brings odd planes to Seattle


It’s now not just passengers who're having their flight plans disrupted with the aid of the repeat eruptions of Mt. Redoubt.  Many cargo freighters heading to Anchorage for refueling are as a substitute diverting to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA).

According to airport officers, so far SEA is getting at the least three instances  the ordinary arrivals of  worldwide cargo planes: 45 in the course of the first 4 days of diversion, the equivalent of a complete week’s normal schedule at SEA.  Now the airport is figuring out wherein they’ll put greater diverted huge-body planes if the volcano remains energetic.


So are passenger planes being pushed aside to make manner for the large, thirsty, traffic?  “Nope, no delays for passenger traffic,” says airport rep. Perry Cooper, “A passenger can also see a large shipment aircraft subsequent to them at the terminal, but it won’t put off any in their flights. This, of course, is outside what passenger delays are created by the flights Alaska has needed to cancel because of the volcano. What has created the cancellation for those flights is developing the extra visitors inside the shipment region for us.”

(Photos of touring cargo planes courtesy Port of Seattle)