The Mendenhall Glacier is just one of many sites that can be seen without venturing outside of the state. (Juneau Empire File)

Opinion: Help Juneau go big in 2021

This is the year to commit to the epic adventure you’ve had in mind.

  • Wednesday, February 17, 2021 2:11pm
  • Opinion

By Liz Perry, Sarah Leonard, Julie Saupe, Patti Mackey, Bonnie Quill , Deb Hickok, Sharon M. Anderson, Debbie Speakman and Laurie Booyse

Travel and tourism took a hard hit everywhere, and Alaska was no exception. In-state travel was the difference maker for many businesses in 2020 as Alaskans traveling in their own backyards kept many places going through the leanest of months. If you hiked a different trail, camped someplace new or booked a stay-cation, thank you. All these efforts helped our struggling industry.

Research indicates that nationally, travel will begin recovering soon. As more people are vaccinated, we could see more Americans ready to travel — and travel safely — this summer. But as you’ve no doubt seen, Alaska’s tourism businesses face a lot of challenges between now and recovery. As Alaskans working in the visitor industry, we have our work cut out for us.

Travel Juneau’s aim has always been to maximize the benefits – economic and beyond – of travel and tourism for our community. It’s no secret that most local visitor businesses are owned by our friends and neighbors: Alaskans who rely on travel to make a living.

We will do everything we can to get travelers here when the time is right because there’s pent-up desire to travel and high interest in Alaska specifically. Travelers want scenic beauty, open spaces, and parklands. We might even be able to snag some citizens who would typically head overseas, but are searching for incredible domestic options given the current uncertainties of international travel. Attracting them and convincing them to stay and explore longer is going to be more important than ever.

It’s going to take all of us. We need your help again.

Last year we asked you to show up for Alaska, to stay and play, and you did! Right now, you have a bigger and better opportunity to plan for the coming months.

If you are able, plan and book the next Alaska adventure now. Go farther, take a longer trip, and try a new activity. In Alaska, there are many ways to go big. Twenty-four national park units, 22 million acres of national forests, 3 million acres of state parks and 33,904 miles of coastline – no way you’ve seen it all. This is the year to commit to the epic adventure you’ve had in mind and yet haven’t found time for.

Travel Juneau, our colleagues across the state, and the Alaska Travel Industry Association can help you find the best ways to enjoy your perfect spot; it’s what we do, and it’s what Alaskans do for one another. If you aren’t sure how to make it happen, let us help you plan the trip of a lifetime.

Invite your friends and family up to share it all and take advantage of favorable airfares. We can help roll out the red carpet (and make certain they don’t spend too much time on your couch while they are here). If you’re stumped on where to send them, each of our organizations make it easier and can make it a reality this year.

If staying closer to home is your speed, we encourage you to buy local, visit your hometown visitor businesses and cultural attractions, support your favorite shops and restaurants (and test out some new ones too).

You deserve some rest and relaxation. Let us help you make the most of 2021, while you help out businesses across Alaska at the same time. You’ll be glad you did.

• Sarah Leonard is president and CEO of the Alaska Travel Industry Association. Julie Saupe is president and CEO of Visit Anchorage. Patti Mackey is president and CEO of Ketchikan Visitors Bureau. Liz Perry is president and CEO of Travel Juneau. Bonnie Quill is president and CEO of the Mat-Su Convention and Visitors Bureau. Deb Hickok is president and CEO of Explore Fairbanks. Sharon M. Anderson is executive director of Valdez Convention and Visitors Bureau. Debbie Speakman is executive director of the Kenai Peninsula Tourism Marketing Council. Laurie Booyse is director of Visit Sitka.

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