Downtown Anchorage seen with the Alaska Range to the north.
Ken Graham

Anchorage Sets Tourism Records in 2019, with Positive Signs Ahead

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Tourism fueled community growth, with 2019 setting records for Anchorage tourism in many ways. There are plenty of positive signs for 2020 as well. Visit Anchorage President & CEO Julie Saupe presented details January 16, 2020, at the Report to the Community. The event is an annual summary of Anchorage tourism performance and predictions. The report recapped industry gains in 2019 and shared forecasts, research findings, and important trends for travel in 2020.

"By many measures, 2019 was the biggest year we’ve ever had," Saupe said. "And by we, I mean we – all of us in this room working together. These accomplishments are yours."

Anchorage tourism is on solid footing after a record-setting 2019. Last year saw growth in both cruise ship capacity and the number of available seats on flights into Anchorage’s airport. Visit Anchorage expects both to stay at or near historic highs for 2020. State data shows leisure and hospitality jobs in Anchorage hit a record last year, with modest growth of just under 2% forecast for 2020. Tourism is 1 in 9 jobs in Anchorage. Hotel performance was positive in 2019 as well, with strong rates, and a growth in demand for hotel rooms, both in the summer and from fall 2018 to spring 2019. Anchorage is growing demand year-round, eclipsing the national average for hotel performance in 2019 in terms of demand, rate, and RevPAR. Hotels saw more than $300 million in revenue last year. Preliminary estimates put annual bed tax collections at $31.2 million for Anchorage, a new record. Those collections are split three ways: a third is reinvested in tourism promotion, a third pays for the civic and convention centers, and a third stays in the municipal general fund.

"By reinvesting in promotion, Visit Anchorage was able to expand our reach last year significantly," Saupe said, "doubling the number of impressions in our print and digital buys compared to 2018." It's estimated that there were 76 million impressions for Anchorage travel messages in 2019.

2020 expectations are good. The national economy is strong, though showing some signs of slowing. Anecdotally, local tourism businesses report positive outlooks for 2020. Anchorage will also maintain similar air capacity to 2019, and may even add some. Cross-Gulf cruise capacity trips beginning or ending in Seward or Whittier, or making day calls on Anchorage is expected to decline slightly, making 2020 the second biggest year on record. Apart from tourism, state and local discussions about budgets and revenue continue to be source of uncertainty to the broader economy.

Visit Anchorage will continue to focus on growing demand year-round in 2020, expanding its marketing and sales efforts aligned with results of recent traveler sentiment research.

"Going wider by doing broader ad campaigns, going deeper by doing more nuanced targeting for our digital buys. I can’t say it enough, we are thrilled to have the increased marketing funds available on the heels of fresh research. It’s priceless," Saupe said.