2020 Conventions, Conferences, and Regional Meetings: Business travelers boost Alaska's economy.

AuthorOrr, Vanessa

The visitor industry in Alaska encompasses more than seasonal travelers viewing wildlife, exploring the wilderness, or taking in local culture. There are a large number of visitors who come to work, attending meetings and conferences and boosting the economy even though they may not participate in traditional tourism activities.

While 2019 was a good year for conventions and meetings in the Last Frontier, 2020 looks to be strong as well. And this is especially important, considering that these functions help contribute to the state's bottom line outside of the summer season.

"Meeting and convention attendees are that part of the visitor industry that supports the state in seasons that are not bolstered as much by tourism," explains Helen Renfrew, director of meetings and conventions for Explore Fairbanks. "Statewide and nationally, meetings tend to peak in the spring and fall, and this additional occupancy helps to support the industry as a whole as an economic driver.

"Not only do hotels, meeting spaces, and restaurants benefit, but so do gas stations, grocery stores, museums, gift shops, coffee shops--you name it. Direct tourism dollars have a wide reach in the community," she adds. "And when visitors spend money, they have an indirect impact as well--the businesses that serve them buy food from wholesalers or send rugs out for cleaning, and their employees spend money on babysitters."

The McDowell Group's Economic Impact Report December 2018 found that conferences in Juneau, for example, had the following economic impact: Conference attendees spent an average of $1,270 per event and stayed an average of four nights; conference organizations spent an average of $450 for each attendee, per event.

"Conferences and meetings provide the highest return, more than independent travelers and cruise guests," says Vicki Logan, convention sales manager at Travel Juneau. "And the money they spend not only benefits Juneau but all of Southeast. When you bring in revenue from outside of Juneau or outside of the state, it has a circle effect. A lot of people don't realize the impact that it has on the whole community."

Who's Coming in 2020?

Convention and meeting numbers look good for 2020, with a range of organizations, both in-state and out-of-state, flocking to Anchorage, Juneau, and Fairbanks.

According to Julie Dodds, vice president of convention sales for Visit Anchorage, convention sales for the last four to five years have been very strong, with...

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