Travel Like a Local: How businesses are making Alaska a year-round destination.

Author:Orr, Vanessa

Alaska is a wonderful place to live year-round, but most people who choose to visit come during the warmer summer months. While this is a big boost to the economy, some companies are encouraging travelers to come earlier and stay longer, creating more lucrative shoulder seasons in April, May, September, and October.

The Alaska Travel Industry Association (ATIA) promotes the state as a year-round destination, and that includes attracting visitors during the shoulder seasons. "If we can get people to visit at this time of year, it really benefits our communities and businesses," explains Sarah Leonard, ATIA president and CEO. "Businesses can stay open longer, which makes them available to residents as well as visitors. And if the Alaska tourism industry strengthens our year-round visitor numbers, it also allows these businesses to hire more residents, generating more economic activity for these companies and for Alaska."

Why Visit during the Shoulder Season?

There are many reasons why visitors might want to come to Alaska when it's not teeming with tourists--especially if the point of their vacation is to get away from it all. Restaurants and shops are far less crowded. And there's less competition when it comes to seeing Alaska in its natural state.

UnCruise Adventures has made a point of marketing to the shoulder season traveler. Their "Alaska Awakening" campaign, launched two years ago, invites visitors to enjoy a more intimate experience in the great outdoors.

"We have always operated a little earlier than most cruise lines, offering trips throughout Southeast Alaska from early April to the third week of May--before most passengers and cruise lines have even considered coming to Alaska," says Tim Jacox, the company's president and CEO.

"It can be an amazing experience to be the only visitors in this massive wilderness; imagine being one of only ninety guests in the middle of Glacier Bay when no one else is around," he says. "We get into remote channels and islands and back bays like nobody else can, and guests have it all to themselves. They can go kayaking and hiking and really get that Alaskan experience."

Jacox adds that visitors may also see the Northern Lights, which can only be seen from late August through April, or spot the gray whales that migrate from Mexico to the Bering Sea only at this time of year.

In the state's urban areas, there's literally more shoulder room to be had during shoulder seasons.

"Girdwood is a really cool...

To continue reading