visitors are especially important during the
typically slower winter season, and comprehensive statewide statistics are only available
for the summer.
In the summer, Chinese tourists comprise
a small share of the market when compared
to domestic travelers and those from Australia, the United Kingdom, and Germany.
An Alaska Tourism Industry Association
survey released in May that only surveyed
summer visitors estimates that less than 1
percent of all summer visitors to Alaska are
from China. About 5,000 Chinese visitors
came to Alaska in the summer of 2016, up
from 3,000 in 2011, according to the survey.
However, the reliability of those numbers
may be questionable because of cultural and
language barriers between surveyors and visitors from Asian countries. The largest and
fastest growing Asian market in Alaska was
not China but India, according to the survey.
Better airline service between the United
States and China will power the growth of
tourism, according to the US Department of
Commerce. More than a dozen new routes
between mainland China and the United
States have come online in the last three
years. But direct air travel between Alaska
and China hasn’t gotten easier. Today commercial travelers between Asia and Alaska
must fly through a Lower 48 airport such
as LAX or SeaTac, although there are charter flights between several east-Asian cities
and both Anchorage and Fairbanks. About
a decade ago it was possible to fly from Asia
directly on commercial flights between Anchorage and Taiwan.
It is a major goal of Ted Stevens Anchor-
Unmet Capacity in Winter Tourism
age International Airport to restore direct
air service to Asia, says Trudy Wassel, the
airport’s division operations manager. She
planned a trip to Beijing in late June to talk
to Asian air carriers about how to increase
direct passenger service between the two
Alaska’s winter, often marketed as the “au-
rora season,” is an important time for Alaska
tourism businesses because there is so much
unmet hospitality capacity in the winter.
Many Alaska hotels close down or slash their
rates bet ween September and May. Busy sum-
mer destinations like the Homer Spit and the
Nenana Canyon near Denali National Park
close completely during those frigid months.
In November 2016, Explore
Fairbanks and Visit Anchorage
led a statewide tourism sales
mission to Taiwan and China,
which included exhibiting at
one of the largest travel shows
in Asia, the International Travel
Fair in Taipei.
Image courtesy of Explore Fairbanks
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