Welcome to the State of Alaska Travel News Bulletin. The tourism office sends this out periodically to keep media up-to-date on Alaska tourism and travel news. Media are invited to call (800) 327-9372 or visit www.TravelAlaska.com/media for more information.
Alaska Travel News Bulletin
September 6, 2011

In this September Travel News Bulletin you will find:

1. Modest Increase in 2011 for Alaska’s cruise industry
2. Travelers get a rare view of Columbia Glacier
3. Alaska’s farmers markets thrive
4. New trails to open at historic roadhouse

1. Modest Increase in 2011 for Alaska’s cruise industry

According to the latest estimates from the Alaska Cruise Association, cruise visitors are up slightly over 2010. The association expects 887,000 cruise visitors in 2011, an increase of 7,000 passengers this year. Even though the state lost two additional ships this year — the Ryndam and Royal Princess — it gained four, including Disney Wonder, Crystal Symphony, Oceania Regatta and Silversea Sea Shadow. The tourism industry as a whole is anticipating growth of between 4 and 5 percent over 2010. Additional indicators for the remainder of 2011 also are generating optimism. The leisure and hospitality industry is up 400 jobs from 2010, and the Anchorage Convention & Visitors Bureau is expecting a 4 to 5 percent increase in hotel occupancy this year. Looking ahead to 2012, Princess will bring another ship to Alaska, which translates to about 50,000 more visitors to the state. The State of Alaska is conducting its Alaska Visitor Statistics Program, a comprehensive analysis of visitors to Alaska. When available later this fall, the completed report will be available online at http://dced.state.ak.us/ded/dev/toubus/research.htm.

Media contact:
Contact: John Binkley, Alaska Cruise Association
Phone: 907-743-4529
Email: jbinkley@alaska.net
URL: www.akcruise.org

2. Travelers get a rare view of Columbia Glacier

This summer, Valdez visitors have glimpsed one of the largest tidewater glaciers in the world for the first time in several decades. The Columbia Glacier is visible from several miles away, but large chunks of ice typically prevent boats from coming any closer. This summer, however, conditions allowed tour operator Stan Stephens Glacier and Wildlife Cruises to bring its tour boats within just a half mile of the active glacier on almost a daily basis, delighting guests with 270-degree views of calving ice. The seven-hour Columbia Glacier Cruise operates from mid-May to mid-September. Family-owned and operated, Stan Stephens Glacier and Wildlife Cruises has been operating in Valdez since 1971. For more information, visit www.stephenscruises.com.

Media contacts:
Contact: Colleen Stephens, Stan Stephens Glacier and Wildlife Cruises
Phone: 907-835-4731
Twitter: @PrinceWmSoundAK
Email: colleen@stephenscruises.com
URL: www.stephenscruises.com

3. Alaska’s farmers markets thrive
It’s no surprise that Alaska leads the nation in the growth of farmers markets. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Farmers Market Directory, Alaska reported 35 markets during the summer of 2011, a 46 percent increase over last year, higher than the national 17 percent increase. Each of the 35 farmers markets has its own distinctive personality and flair and offers a variety of creative crafts including local honey, homemade breads, Native arts and cultural nuances unique to the region. About half of Alaska’s markets are located in the Southcentral region, but markets are popping up in more communities, including Sitka, Kodiak, Wrangell and Thorne Bay. Alaska’s long summer days and rich soil create a thriving environment for farming, producing some colossal vegetables that are showcased each August at the Alaska State Fair in Palmer. A complete directory and more information on Alaska’s farmers markets can be found at www.alaskafarmersmarkets.org.
Media contact:
Contact: Amy Pettit, Alaska Division of Agriculture
Phone: 907-761-3864
Email: amy.pettit@alaska.gov
URL: www.dnr.alaska.gov/ag

4. New trails to open at historic roadhouse

The Lodge at Black Rapids will have some new cross-country ski trails this winter. Combined with neighboring area trails, guests will have access to about 10 kilometers of groomed trails for cross-country skiing. Backcountry skiing and snowshoeing are popular activities because of the immediate highway access into the Alaska Range. The Lodge at Black Rapids opened in 2009 and is located 138 miles south of Fairbanks along the Richardson Hwy. It sits overlooking the original Rapids Roadhouse that was built in 1902 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It was one of the few roadhouses remaining on the Valdez-Fairbanks trail, the route that led thousands of gold prospectors to the Yukon. The new 7,300-square-foot timber-framed lodge boasts private baths, home-style meals and is open year round. For more information, visit www.lodgeatblackrapids.com.

Media contacts:
Contact: Annie Hopper, Lodge at Black Rapids
Phone: 907-455-6158
Email: hopper@alaska.net
URL: www.lodgeatblackrapids.com
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Social Media Spotlight

Instead of dishing out our personal travel advice, follow the experiences of six groups of road warriors who made their way north to Alaska via highway. You can see a collection of their photos, videos, written accounts and advice HERE.
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