Tourism Industry Leaders To Meet In Sitka

Leaders of Alaska’s visitors’ industry will gather in Sitka next week.

More than 400 excursion operators, tourism managers and cruise officials are expected to attend the Alaska Travel Industry Association’s conference.

“It’s the annual time where our industry partners and managers gather to learn about trends and projections and network and get excited for the next season,” Sarah Leonard, president of the ATIA, said.

The conference offers business, marketing and public relations sessions for those in the industry.

International tourism consultant Lenwood Sloan is a keynote speaker. Leonard says he will address what’s called heritage tourism.

“He’s going to be talking about how communities can weave those characteristics into their destination and help highlight their destinations around cultural tourism,” Sloan said.

Leonard says Alaska’s visitors’ industry is slowly growing, bringing about 1.8 million people to the state. Close to one million tourists cruise the coast, while others arrive by plane, car or RV.

The travel industry association does not have numbers for this year yet. But she says tour operators have told her it was a good summer.

Leonard is optimistic about the 2014 season.

“We see hopefully increases in international visitation through some new services like the state’s partnership with Iceland Air and bringing that new air service to Alaska,” she said. “So we’re very excited about that.

She says government and private advertising campaigns are increasing interest in the state. She says Alaska “reality” TV shows are also helping spread the word.

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Ed Schoenfeld is Regional News Director for CoastAlaska, a consortium of public radio stations in Ketchikan, Juneau, Sitka, Petersburg and Wrangell. He primarily covers Southeast Alaska regional topics, including the state ferry system, transboundary mining, the Tongass National Forest and Native corporations and issues. He has also worked as a manager, editor and reporter for the Juneau Empire newspaper and Juneau public radio station KTOO. He’s also reported for commercial station KINY in Juneau and public stations KPFA in Berkley, WYSO in Yellow Springs, Ohio, and WUHY in Philadelphia. He’s lived in Alaska since 1979 and is a contributor to Alaska Public Radio Network newscasts, the Northwest (Public Radio) News Network and National Native News. He is a board member of the Alaska Press Club. Originally from Cleveland, Ohio, he lives in Douglas.