Visitor Data: Tourism On Upward Swing

State Predicts Another Good Year For Tourism; Alaska Travel Industry Expects Increase In Travelers in 2017

The State Of Alaska Labor Department released a projection in January, 2017 that shows "the visitor-dependent slice" of the tourism industry is expected to grow. The state quotes an Alaska Travel Industry Association prediction of an increase in tourists for 2017. In 2015, total travel went up 7% over the summer of 2014. Cruise ships were up 3%, air travel was up 13%, and "highway/ferry" travel was up 14%. Cruise ships made up 48% of travelers, but 47% came by air. Highway travel was the fastest growing segment. 

Tourism figures for last year, 2016, are expected to be available in February, so check back. 

According to the State Labor Department, "Americans are traveling in ever-larger numbers, and cruise ship bookings are up." 

FROM: Alaska Economic Trends, Alaska Department of Labor. January, 2017
& McDowell Group 

Visitor Data: 19% Is The Magic Number

Travelers Around Alaska Spend Roughly Equal Amounts On Four Vital Services

Travelers to Alaska need just about everything. And they're willing to pay for it. Lodging, activities, gifts and food  all bring in about the same amount of money – between $355 million and $392 million to businesses in the summer.

Data from the McDowell Group shows that between 18% and 20% of all expenses are evenly divided in importance for visitors.

Here's the breakdown:

What Do Alaska's Travelers Spend Their Money On?

Lodging: $392 Million
Gifts: $363 Million
Activities: $360 Million
Food & Beverages: $355 Million

GRAPH: Courtesy McDowell Group

Celebrating: 40 Years Of Pumping

Alyeska Pipeline Celebrates 40 Years Of Pumping Oil From Prudhoe To Valdez

Alaska has a history of "big" projects. The Kennicott Mines, for example.  Kennicott is now a beloved tourist attraction, but at one time the mines operated the most sophisticated community in Alaska, with a laundry, fresh food, electric lighting and a hospital well before many other rural Alaska communities ever approached that level of service. 

Another big project was the WAMCATS telegraph line. This U.S. Army Signal Corps' 1903-era  telegraph line linked Eagle to Seattle by cable, through Valdez. It included 2,000 miles of undersea cable. The old roadhouses of the Richardson Highway often had a WAMCATS station within a snowball throw's distance away, and you can still see the old telegraph station at Big Delta Historical Park, at Rika's Roadhouse.

The 800-mile long Alyeska Pipeline, which was completed and shipped its first oil in the spring of 1977, 40 years ago, is one of a series of large and ambitious projects. The Alyeska pipe is 48 inches in diameter, about the same size as the 90-mile long "Davidson Ditch" pipe that transferred water for gold sluicing north of Fairbanks.  

"The Pipeline" runs along the Richardson Highway all the way to Fairbanks, before heading north. It can be viewed at a number of roadside locations along the route. There are displays on the Pipeline, most notably in Valdez, Delta Junction and just north of Fairbanks.

Here's another figure. Alyeska reports that in 2016, there was the first-ever calendar year-to-year increase in oil pumping since 2002. In 2015, the Pipeline averaged 508,446 barrels per day. The 2016 amount was a 1.8% increase, to 517,500 barrels a day. Its peak flow was 2 million barrels a day, in 1988, says Alyeska.  

Celebrating: 150 Years In U.S.A.

It's 150 Years Since Russia "Sold" Alaska To The United States For Pennies On The Acre

Russia was eager to sell Alaska to the United States even before the beginning of the Civil War. The Russians were having a hard time making inroads from the coast to the trackless interior. And they had pretty much decimated the sea mammals along the shore. 

Lincoln was interested. But the Civil War got in the way. After the war was over, on March 30th, 1867, William H. Seward, who was Secretary of State, continued on with the plan and bought Alaska. The purchase was for 586,412 square miles. It cost $7.2 million to buy Alaska, or about $123 million nowadays. 

The formal name for a 150 year anniversary is a "sesquicentennial." On mainland Alaska, most of places you can learn about Alaska are in the Kenai, including at Ninilchik, the town of Kenai, and near Homer. There are also Russian items in various small museums. Eklutna, just north of Anchorage, has a Russian era graveyard.

Visitor Data: $1.2 Billion Spent On Mainland

45% Of Tourism Income Comes To Southcentral Alaska 

Independent travelers spend more money in Southcentral Alaska than anywhere else. A total of $866 million is spent in Southcentral – or 45% of all money spent on land by non-package travelers. It's no surprise that Southeast hauls in the money; that's where the cruise ships land. But Southcentral's piece of the pie is surprisingly hefty.

Interior Alaska is also a heavy hitter, with 17% spent (or $336 million.) The total amount of non-package tour and non-transportation money spent in Southcentral, the Interior & the "Far North" is $1.2 billion. 

Where Do Alaska's Travelers Spend Their Money?

Southcentral: $866 Million
Interior: $336 Million
Far North: $26 Million
Southwest: $93 Million
Southeast: $622 Million

GRAPH: Courtesy McDowell Group

Celebrating: 75 Years On The Alcan

ALCAN Celebrates 75 Years

The Alaska Highway ("ALCAN") is celebrating its 75th year. The highway was completed under difficult conditions by the military in 1942. It begins in Dawson Creek, in British Columbia, Canada. The highway ends in Delta Junction, around 1,400 miles later. The ALCAN is the road of legends. Several movies were made about it, back in the day.

Alaska's Department of Transportation, the ALCAN Alaska communities of Tok and Delta, and other interested groups are working on celebrations planned for the Summer of 2017. 

Events planned to celebrate the 75th Anniversary of the Alaska Highway.

May 30 Fairbanks Chamber of Commerce
Fairbanks, Alaska
Carlson Center, 11:30 a.m. 
Contact: Meadow Bailey, Alaska Department of Transportation
(907) 451-2240,
June 2 Ft. Wainwright Block Party
Ft. Wainwright, Alaska
5-9pm, features: food, activities, giveaways
 - 242nd Army Birthday
 - Vietnam Veteran Commemoration
 - 75th Anniversary of the Alaska Highway
Contact: Mel Slater, Ft. Wainwright Public Affairs Office
(907) 353-6701, 

June 3 Delta Junction/Ft. Greely Celebration
Delta, Alaska
Contacts: City of Delta, Mary Leith
(907) 895-4656,

Ft. Greely, Elliott Ross
(907) 873-5032, 

June 5 Anchorage Celebration
Anchorage, Alaska
11:30 a.m., 333 West 4
th Ave.
Contact: Jean Pollard, Chair, Alaska Highway Project
(907) 764-7464,

June 16-17 Fairbanks NAACP Juneteenth Celebration
Lilly of the Valley Park, Fairbanks, Alaska
Contact: Ruby Sutton
(907) 322-7764,

June 29, 2017 Celebration at Soldier’s Summit, Alaska Highway
Soldier's Summit is a location along the Alaska Highway (historic mile 1061) in the vicinity of Kluane National Park and Reserve, with interpretative panels on the construction of the Highway along a maintained trail. On June 29, Parks Canada will host a day-long celebration with hospitality, special guests, special activities to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Alaska Highway, the opening of a new trail, and new interpretive exhibits in Kluane National Park and Reserve.
Contact: Lily Gontrad, Parks Canada
(867) 667-3967,

July 4, 2017 Tok Celebration
Tok, Alaska
Contacts: John Rusyniak, Tok Chamber of Commerce
(907) 883-3124, 

Oct. 10, 2017 Tuesday Nite History Talk, Alaska Highway
Valdez, Alaska
Valdez Museum, 5:50-6:30 p.m.
Contact: Faith Revell, Curator of Education & Public Programs  
(907) 835-2764, 

Oct. 25, 2017 Alaska Governor Bill Walker’s proclamation for “Alaska Highway Day”
Statewide recognition of the date, Oct. 25, 1942, when the two contingents building the Alaska Highway met up.

Contact: Jean Pollard, Chair, Alaska Highway Project
(907) 764-7464,

If you'd like to participate in planning ideas or events, contact Meadow Bailey at DOT:

Alaska Digits: 2,645 More Alaskans

Alaska Had A Population Increase of 2,645 People In 2016

The population of Alaska has been a source of concern lately. People are wondering if there's an exodus going on. A population "bust."

Major ebbs and flows have long been part of Alaska history, of course. In 1974, as the construction of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline began, 30,235 people arrived in Alaska. The next year, almost 20,000 more entered the state. Then, several years later, in 1977, the post-Pipeline bust began. In the 1977-78 year, 13,356 people left Alaska. The year after that, 5,234 people abandoned us.

So what's happening now? Not as much as you might think. 

Actually, the overall population of Alaska is growing. It increased by 2,645 people in 2016. Many of the additional residents come from the Mat-Su Borough, which provided a large number of new "Alaska Grown" babies to the mix. 

There was a loss of people in Alaska between the ages of 18 and 64 (the group considered by the State of Alaska to be "the working age population.") A total of 2,774 people in that age group left the state – or about 1/3 of 1% of the current state population. Countable, but not yet earth-shattering.  

(Note: Because the Alaska population in 1974 was less than half of what it is now -- it numbered around 340,000 residents back then, and stands at 740,000 today -- these figures are a little tricky to compare accurately across the board. 30,000 people entering Alaska 40 years ago would translate, percentage- and impact-wise, to over 60,000 incoming residents if the Pipeline happened today!)

In 2016 Southeast lost 494 residents – the most of any section of Alaska. Which was a lot for Southeast, but in solid numbers a very small fraction of the total current Alaska population. 

So there are some changes going on, but the changes are well within normal, steady, slow growth through natural births and nothing yet like the dramatic up-and-down spikes of a good old fashioned genuine Alaska boom and bust cycle.  

SOURCE: State Of Alaska Department Of Labor official statistics, January 12, 2017