A group of visitors enjoy the new BEARS boardwalk. // © 2014 Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center
Alaska is anticipating another good year for tourism in 2014. After talking with local vendors and CVB representatives at a recent Alaska travel show, the consensus is that bookings are up and the tourism outlook this year is strong. Sources say this steady increase in Alaska tourism is due to increased television exposure through a variety of Alaska-based reality shows as well as state and private marketing efforts. Private tourism businesses also help by evolving each year to provide new or updated attractions for visitors. This year is no different, with a wide array of new tours available to clients. Many announcements get buried in the media blitz, so here are a few noteworthy options for your Alaska-bound clients in 2014.
Talkeetna Air Taxi and Alaska Nature Guides are collaborating to offer secluded, guided heli-hiking excursions in the Talkeetna Mountains. A helicopter flies guests into the remote wilderness, where they disembark and enjoy a 3½-hour hike. Each hike is different and is tailored to the fitness of the group and specific interests, such as photography, geology or wildlife viewing. The tour costs $399 per person and includes a snack, water, hiking gear and daypacks.
Gray Line Offers Tour Flexibility
Gray Line of Alaska, one of the longtime experts in tourism to the Great Land, is offering several multi-day vacation packages.
Classic Explorer Tours are best for clients who want to kick back and leave the driving to the Gray Line professionals. Talkeetna and Denali National Park are popular destinations for this type of tour. Self-Drive Tours, however, are best for clients who are interested in a pre-planned itinerary. The tours consist of carefully selected routes along scenic Alaska highways. With this option, clients enjoy touring at their own pace and they have the option of pursuing activities that most interest them.
Escorted Tours are the best choice for clients who enjoy the knowledge and entertainment value of an experienced tour director — and Gray Line’s tour directors are considered some of the best in the industry.
Worry-Free Bear Viewing
It’s rare when visitors can enjoy watching bears without either the animals or the spectators feeling jittery. The newly completed Bear Education Awareness Research Sanctuary (BEARS) at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center allows visitors to walk on an elevated boardwalk above the bear enclosure for a bird’s-eye view of the bruins and a closer look at the bear habitat.
Seward's New Zipline Park
Denali Zipline Tours (DZT) out of Talkeetna is scheduled to expand operations to Seward in 2014, with an 80-acre park that will serve as another south-central Alaska option to enjoy treetop fun and fabulous coastal scenery. If the new park is anything like the company’s Talkeetna operation, it’s sure to be a hit with visitors. DZT is also offering winter zipline tours and is pegging their zip as the farthest north canopy tour in North America.
Tanalian Aviation has introduced its “City of Lights” sunset helicopter tour, circling Anchorage and the surrounding area, for a scenic “take-it-all-in” view of the Chugach Mountains, Cook Inlet coastline and the metropolitan skyline.
High Mark Distillery, a new business located in Sterling, uses ideas borrowed from backwoods jack-makers to create its popular Nickel Back Apple Jack, a smooth, apple-pie-flavored liqueur. Don’t ask for the recipe: It’s a family secret. I’m betting clients will have fun trying to figure it out.
New Exhibit at Glacier Bay
In spring 2014, Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve plans to display a humpback whale skeleton as part of an outdoor exhibit at the park’s visitor center.