Convening in the Arctic: Event planners, conference organizers discuss Alaska and conventions.

Author:Orr, Vanessa

Alaska is a bucket-list destination, making it the perfect place to host a meeting or convention. But while planners certainly won't have any issues getting people interested in the location, there are factors that need to be taken into consideration when planning to bring a large group to the 49th state.

"While the demand curve is consistent in Fairbanks and for the state of Alaska, planners do need to remember that it is a long-haul destination," explains Helen Renfrew, director of meetings and conventions for Explore Fairbanks. "It is a fair bit away, and it takes a lot to get to us. If you need to ship things up, it takes a little longer to get from Dubuque, Iowa, to Fairbanks, Alaska.

"On the plus side, you get all the benefits of traveling internationally without worrying about needing a passport or having to exchange money," she adds. "And the weather can play in your favor; a lot of people get excited about the opportunity to meet in a place where it gets really cold.

"The best meetings take place when it's -30'F," she laughs. "No one is skipping out to go shopping. Everyone hangs out in the restaurants and bars, which make for prime off-time networking opportunities."

Selling the State

People come from all over the nation and the world to attend meetings in Alaska, but groups also come from in-state too. According to Renfrew, approximately 60 percent of the meetings hosted in Fairbanks are for in-state groups, with 20 percent regional and national, and 20 percent international groups.

"We have a fairly high international percentage for the size of our community, but that is because many of our guests are connected to the university and circumpolar groups," she explains. "We really take a localized focus on bringing meetings to Fairbanks because we find that our best ROI comes when someone local agrees to invite a group that they are affiliated with. We call these people our Golden Heart Meeting Ambassadors, and most of our meetings come to us through that method."

Collaboration is the name of the game when it comes to selling any individual destination or the state as a whole.

"While in-state meetings are not a focus of our marketing efforts, we do partner with regional destination marketing organizations like Visit Anchorage, Explore Fairbanks, and Travel Juneau to help highlight the state and add value to what they are doing," says Sarah Leonard, president and CEO of the Alaska Travel Industry Association (ATIA). "We're happy to...

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