The early returns from summer travel are in, and it appears that 2022 will approach some all-time Anchorage records. The community made year-over-year gains in terms of tourism-related revenue, hotel performance, and visitation.
“Community investment in tourism marketing and promotions gets results,” said Visit Anchorage President and CEO Julie Saupe. “That investment leads to big positive impacts for the community as a whole.”
Visitor Volume Approaches 2019, Length of Stay Increases
Passenger counts at Anchorage’s airport are up compared to last summer, though still shy of all-time historical peaks. Through July, TSA counts at ANC are down just 7% from 2019 – better than the national average. However, there are other indications suggesting travelers’ length of stay has increased – particularly for independent travelers.
Hotel performance was remarkably strong. Several weeks this summer saw Anchorage among the top performing markets nationally for accommodations. Demand for hotel nights was nearly equal to 2019, despite the lag in volume. Longer stays mean increased local spending, more days to explore, and better opportunities to learn local cultures and meet Alaskans. This summer Visit Anchorage launched the Anchorage Neighborhood Challenge to help visitors discover a wider breadth of the community and locals find new favorite places.
Visitor Spending and Tourism-related Tax Revenue Up
Visitor-related local tax revenues are up. Visit Anchorage anticipates hotel bed taxes for 2022 will grow 20% over 2021, barring any significant setback in Q4. Local car and RV rental taxes are already up 34% through June.
“Tourism spending reaches all corners of the economy,” said Saupe. “Tax collections are an encouraging indicator of visitor spending, and hint at the wider economic benefits of tourism.”
Employment Grows, Challenges Persist
Along with the rest of the economy, travel and tourism continues to see challenges including finding enough employees, navigating supply hiccups, and other hindrances.
Anchorage has added back thousands of jobs in leisure and hospitality since 2020, some of the strongest growth of any sector in Anchorage. Employment in the sector is up, though again it is still shy of 2019 levels. Finding enough employees is likely to be a lasting challenge for many sectors, not just tourism here in Anchorage.
Growing Fall and Winter
Fall and winter have positive indicators as well. There is a strong convention calendar ahead, with First Alaskans Institute's Elders and Youth, the Alaska Federation of Natives Annual Convention, and Go West to look forward to, among others set for Anchorage.
There is also room to grow leisure visitation outside summer. Hotel demand from October 2021 through March 2022 was up 6% compared to the same period before COVID. This could be a sign of increased appetite for off-peak visitation, but might also be a one-time quirk of travel’s return as things reopened. In either case, it's an opportunity to build more year-round visitation. Visit Anchorage has a strong marketing and promotions program ahead to make the most of the current momentum.
“We have to stay in the game,” said Saupe. “The success of tourism in the last two years was made possible by the investment in tourism marketing and promotions. But other, bigger U.S. and international competitors are getting back on their feet and will be eager to make gains. We have to remain attractive in a crowded, competitive marketplace for travel.”