Chilkat Valley News - Serving Haines and Klukwan, Alaska since 1966

Fees may fund tour promotion


With its annual marketing budget sliced from nearly $15 million to $1.5 million, the Alaska Travel Industry Association is in the early stages of raising marketing money for the state.

Sarah Leonard, ATIA president, gave a presentation to the Haines Borough Tourism Advisory Board recently about creating a statewide “tourism improvement district.”

A tourism improvement district is similar to a business improvement district and could be created by state statute. Leonard said the association is basing its plan off one used by the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute.

Once a district is created, the industry would vote to pay an assessment – anywhere from 0.5 percent to over 2 percent – essentially setting a tax rate on itself that would be collected by the state government. That money then would be allocated for visitor promotion.

Leonard said the ATIA has been working with legislators on potential legislation that would allow the association to create a statewide district.

“We want industry to know about what we’re proposing,” Leonard said. “To remain competitive, we need a healthy, strong destination-marketing budget. We’re a long-haul destination. It takes time and planning.We have to attract people to come up here,” Leonard said.

Haines Tourism Director Leslie Ross said the Haines Borough should be aware of the proposal at the state level, as there is also local discussion about resurrecting a tour tax or making changes to the 1 percent tax for economic development.

“If our tourism business got hit locally and by the state, it would make a pretty big impact, and not in a positive way,” Ross said.

Ross said that although the improvement district proposal is not far enough advanced for the tourism department or the borough to take a position on it, she is paying attention to its progress and trying to gauge how it would affect a small community like Haines.

“There’s only so much money you can charge a guest before you charge yourself out of the market,” said Rainbow Glacier Adventures operator Joe Ordonez, among talk of a statewide income tax, a local tour tax and now this assessment.

Ordonez said he needs to do research on how the statewide marketing budget affects his business. “As a prudent business owner, I ask, ‘How much bang am I getting for my buck? Is it worth it?’”

Leonard estimated more than 2 million tourists visited Alaska in 2016, the highest since at least 2008.

“Those visitors are spending money in local communities,” Leonard said. “We bring millions to Alaska and that trickles down.”

Leonard said the state may start to feel the effects of the low marketing budget by 2019 or 2020.

For more information or to sign up in support of the Tourism Improvement District, visit


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