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.
State of Alaska
December 30, 2011


In this January Travel News Bulletin you will find:

1. 2012 Alaska travel forecast
2. New products and tours
3. New events and 2012 anniversaries


2012 Alaska travel forecast

As Alaskans prepare for the global premiere of "Big Miracle" in Washington D.C. on January 25th, the Alaska tourism industry is looking towards another year of growth in visitor numbers and a continuing trend of Alaska in the limelight. The cruise passenger market saw a slight increase in 2011, according to the most recent Alaska Visitor Statistics study, and projections for 2012 cruise market sector are anticipated to be even better. A total of 30 large cruise ships are scheduled to sail Alaska's waters in 2012. The year will see the return of a Disney Cruise Line ship, the addition of a Princess ship, Norwegian Cruise Line will replace the Norwegian Star with a higher-capacity ship, the Norwegian Jewel and The World of Residences at Sea will also make an appearance for one voyage in 2012. Small-ship cruise line American Cruise Line will also sail to Alaska for the first time this season.
 
On the airline front, Jet Blue Airways will again offer seasonal nonstop flights from Long Beach, Calif. to Anchorage in 2012. US Airways will connect Philadelphia to Alaska with nonstop flights throughout the summer and Condor Airlines returns in May with increased, seasonal nonstop flights between Anchorage and Frankfurt, Germany. Japan Airlines announced its capacity would increase to 19 flights to Fairbanks this winter (two include continuation to Anchorage) to highlight aurora viewing.
 
“While leisure travel was down nationally in 2011, the projections are up for 2012 – both domestically and internationally,” said Susan Bell, commissioner of the Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development. “Total domestic visitors in 2012 are expected to exceed record numbers from 2007 and travel spending is slated to exceed $800 billion for the first time ever.”
 
So what can visitors to Alaska expect to see in 2012? Here is just a sample of new tours and products, events and anniversaries travelers can look forward to on their next Alaska vacation.



2. New products and tours

Statewide
  • Travelers visiting Alaska’s state parks in 2012 can enjoy more than just scenery and wildlife through a new program called Poems in Place, supported by a partnership between the Alaska State Council on the Arts, Alaska State Parks and the Alaska Center for the Book. It places signs throughout Alaska’s state parks displaying poems by contemporary Alaskan poets. The first sign was erected in 2011 in Chugach State Park and at least seven more are planned for installation in the next couple years. www.eed.state.ak.us/aksca/
  • The Alaska cruise industry will welcome back many of the same vessels and large-ship cruise lines in 2012. Disney Cruise Line is scheduled to return, but will change its home port to Seattle. Norwegian Cruise Line will replace the Norwegian Star with a higher-capacity ship, the Norwegian Jewel. Other cruise lines returning to Alaska include: Princess Cruises, Royal Caribbean International, Regent Seven Seas, Holland America Line, Celebrity Cruise Line, Carnival Cruise Line, Crystal Cruises, Oceania Cruises and The World of Residences at Sea. Also of note among the small-ship cruise lines, American Cruise Line will sail to Alaska for the first time this season.
  • Adventure Life is offering a number of new small-ship adventures to Alaska in 2012, including itineraries with several luxury expedition cruise vessels. Travelers can choose from more than 25 small-ship adventures traveling to Prince William Sound, Glacier Bay, Point Adolphus and more. Trips range from eight to 15 days. http://www.adventure-life.com/cruises/alaska-cruises/
Southcentral
  • The Kenai Fjords Wilderness Lodge near Seward will offer guided salmon fishing charters in July and August of 2012. Guests will be picked up at the dock on Fox Island and taken for a six-hour salmon fishing charter, with lunch and gear included.  www.kenaifjordslodge.com
  • Denali Zipline Tours, located in Talkeetna, will offer thrilling excursions above the treetops in June. Visitors can navigate eight zipline courses across the northern boreal forest with a birds-eye view of Mount McKinley and the Alaska Range. www.denaliziplinetours.com.
  • Phillips Cruises, located in Whittier, will expand by adding a second boat in 2012. The Glacier Quest will run a 3.75-hour cruise into in the calm waters of Prince William Sound May through September, showing guests the big ice of Prince William Sound, two glaciers and a variety of bird, land mammal and sea life. www.26glaciers.com.
  • After 31 years of producing shows in Juneau, Perseverance Theatre will bring its first season of plays to the Anchorage Performing Arts Center in 2012. The theater company will continue to offer productions (many written by Alaskans), education and training programs for youth and adults from its home base in Juneau. The first Anchorage show, “The Blue Bear,” runs Feb. 10-18 and is based on Juneau author Lynn Schooler's chronicle of his friendship with acclaimed wildlife photographer Michio Hoshino and their years-long effort to find and photograph a rare, blue subspecies of black bear (also known as a glacier bear).  www.perserverancetheatre.org
  • Alaska Sled Dog Tours will offer sled dog tours of the Anchorage hillside and Bicentennial Park, both on the fringes of Chugach State Park. The new company is run by the Seavey family, a well-know family that knows mushing inside and out. Three generations of Seaveys have competed in the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. www.aksleddogtours.com
  • Salmonberry Tours will offer an Anchorage Dog Sledding Tour that includes mushing with the Seaveys around Anchorage, as well as a snowshoe stroll and trailside s’mores. www.salmonberrytours.com
  • The Alaska Marine Highway System will bring back its popular service between Bellingham, Wash., and Whittier, Alaska. The M/V Kennicott departs Bellingham for Whittier on alternate Saturdays from May through September 2012. The trip between the two ports lasts five days, and return trips are also available aboard the Kennicott. The ferry system also will run four departures per week to Gustavus in summer 2012. Gustavus is the gateway to Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve and adjacent to the Tongass National Forest. www.dot.state.ak.us/amhs
  • Chugach Powder Guides has lined up a wide range of professional athletes and industry experts to host its guests throughout the 2012 heli-ski season in Girdwood. Skiing and snowboarding greats, such as Reggie and Zach Crist, Chris Davenport, Bryan Iguchi, Jess McMillan and Girdwood local Elyse Saugstad, will each lead one week of heli-skiing adventures with Chugach Powder Guides throughout the season. There is no additional cost or premium to ski with any of the hosts. Trips start from $5,600 per person double occupancy. http://www.epicquest.com/trips/snow/alaska/girdwood/package-1-heli-ski/
Interior
  • The new Alaska Folk School in Talkeetna will offer classes teaching traditional skills such as sustainable agriculture, woodworking, fiber arts, dance, ceramics, antler basket weaving, blacksmithing and more throughout 2012. http://northernsusitnainstitute.org/alaska-folk-school/
 
Inside Passage
  • Rainbow Glacier Adventures will start a gold tour in Haines based on the success of Discovery Channel's new reality series, “Gold Rush Alaska.” Travelers will learn the history of the area, meet real prospectors and pan for gold in the creek. http://joeordonez.com/tours/
  • The Alaskan Wilderness Survival tour, offered by Allen Marine Tours in Ketchikan, will teach visitors how to survive in the Alaska wilderness and gives them the chance to take part in a research project to help sustain the Alaska seafood industry. www.allenmarinetours.com
  • The Bears, Birds and Barnacles Tour will be offered onboard Holland America Ships docked in Sitka in 2012. The tour includes a visit to Fortress of the Bear, the Alaska Raptor Center and the Sitka Marine Science Center. http://www.hollandamerica.com
  • In 2012, Sitka travelers can step aboard new trolley-style buses and explore Sitka at their own pace. Operated by Sitka Tribal Enterprises, the trolley will run on days when large cruise ships are in port and stops at Sitka's major downtown attractions every half hour, including Sitka National Historical Park, Sheldon Jackson Museum, Alaska Raptor Center, the Tlingit Clan House and more. For additional information, call 907-747-7290 or email touroperations@sitkatribe-nsn.gov
  • Lindblad Expeditions’ new Undersea Alaska Program will give guests a rare glimpse at sea life beneath the ship. An undersea specialist onboard each Alaska expedition will dive 40-80 feet below the ocean’s surface and collect footage that will be shared with guests during special presentations. www.expeditions.com
  • Alaskan Dream Cruises of Sitka will offer three new itineraries and additional ports of call (Ketchikan, Skagway, Haines, Thorne Bay, Kasaan, Wrangell and Gustavus) during its second season, May-Sept. 2012. The company also completed renovations on both of its ships. www.alaskandreamcruises.com
  • The new Silverking Seafood Boil Bonanza begins right at the cruise ship dock in Ketchikan. Travelers board a motorcoach for a narrated tour through town to Clover Pass Resort and then continue on to a boat tour that ends at Silverking Lodge. At the lodge guests can take in the scenery, stroll the boardwalk trail among the red cedars of the Tongass National Forest, watch anglers bring in their catch and end the trip with a seafood boil meal. www.alaskasportfishingexpeditions.com
  • The Ketchikan Historic Commission will offer Ketchikan visitors a fresh look inside the buildings in the historic downtown neighborhoods of Creek Street, Steadman Street and Thomas Street. The Historical Society has installed 15 signs on some of the town’s most historically significant buildings, including Dolly’s House and the New York Hotel. www.visit-ketchikan.com
  • In 2012, 63 cruise ships from five cruise lines will call on Icy Strait Point, near Juneau. Visiting this year will be Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises, Holland America Line, Regent Seven Seas Cruises and The World of Residences at Sea. There will be two new excursions offered in 2012: the Island Exploration Tour and the Advanced Kayaking Adventure. www.icystraitpoint.com
  • Above and Beyond Alaska will offer day and overnight, guided kayak trips to Pack Creek and Windfall Harbor, two bear-viewing hotspots near Juneau. www.beyondak.com
Far North
  • The Alaska Department of Fish and Game will unveil a new Nome wildlife viewing guidebook in the spring of 2012. The spiral-bound and photo-filled guide will help travelers navigate Nome’s three lengthy roads. It also describes the natural history and wildlife found in the area, including musk ox, caribou, foxes, wolves, bears, birds and more. The guide will be available at bookstores throughout the state and on Amazon.com. http://www.adfg.alaska.gov


3. New events and 2012 anniversaries
  • 2012 marks the 70th anniversary of the Alaska Highway. The highway (also known as the ALCAN) was constructed during World War II and runs from Dawson Creek, British Columbia to the junction with the Richardson Highway in Delta Junction, Alaska. Visitors looking for maps and routes, points of interest, travel tips and more info about traveling the Alaska Highway should visit www.northtoalaska.com.
  • The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race will celebrate its 40th anniversary in March 2012. The world-famous 1,100-mile trip from Anchorage to Nome begins with a ceremonial start in Anchorage on Saturday, March 3 and officially begins on Willow Lake on March 4. www.iditarod.com
  • Icy Strait Point will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Hoonah Packing Company and its original fishing cannery. The cannery was the economic engine of the Tlingit village of Hoonah from 1912 until 1953. With the disappearance of the logging industry and the continued decline of commercial fishing, the village faced economic peril until 1998, when Huna Totem Corporation bought the abandoned cannery facilities and the surrounding land. Restoration of the salmon cannery began in 2001 and Icy Strait Point opened there in May 2004. http://www.icystraitpoint.com/
  • 2012 marks the 100th anniversary of the eruption of the Novarupta volcano, the largest eruption in the 20th century and the basis for the establishment of Katmai National Park. Known for some of the best bear viewing in the state, Katmai is also home to the Valley of 10,000 Smokes, a spectacular 40-square mile 700-foot-deep ash flow deposited by the volcano. www.nps.gov/katm/index.htm
  • Fairbanks will host the 60th annual Golden Days festival, a celebration of the pioneer days of Fairbanks when men, women and children journeyed to Alaska’s Interior in search of gold. The July festival offers something for everyone — a parade, rubber duck race, street fair, kids day, comedy night and more. www.fairbankschamber.org
  • The 2012 Spring Carnival, April 20-22, at Alyeska Resort will feature a costume party and competition to select 25 of the 50 available slots for the Slush Cup, a famous pond-skimming contest. During Slush Cup, competitors dressed in zany costumes attempt to skim across a 90-foot long pool of freezing water. Other activities include humorous ski competitions, XTRATUF pull tug-of-war, a Seven Glaciers Wine Dinner, live music and more. www.alyeskaresort.com
  • Camp Denali, one of the only four lodges located at the end of the 90-mile Denali Park Road, will reflect on more than a half century of sharing Denali National Park and Preserve with visitors. The June commemoration of 60 years of service, will include the return of visitors who worked at the camp in its early years as part of the Special Emphasis Series, June 4-7, 2012. www.campdenali.com
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