The three legged stool of the Alaska economy is oil, commercial fishing, and tourism.
The global pandemic has made it a bad year for all three.
Since I’m a fishing guide and lodge owner, I will focus this post on the obvious: tourism.
The 2020 preseason forecast for tourist visiting Alaska was 2.4 million. Considering there are just over 700,000 residents, that’s a lot of visitors spending time and money in our State.
The cruise ship industry projected a record 1.4 million people would see Alaska by water this year. When the pandemic hit, all cruises were cancelled.
Since travel by cruise ship was eliminated, the second most popular means to get to Alaska is by air. I don’t think I need to summarize how poor of a year the airline industry has been having. Even though there were quite a few hoops to jump through to fly to Alaska, at least it wasn’t banned completely.
The final way visitors get to Alaska is by vehicle. Since Canada prohibited all non essential travel through their country, visitors were unable to come by highway.
In summary, it was very difficult for visitors to get here.
The steep decline of tourism has been felt by many in the State. Obvious businesses affected include rental cars, restaurants, grocery stores, lodging, and charters, etc. Less obvious is the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADFG). Last year, Alaskans spent just under $3.5 million on fishing licenses and king stamps. Non residents, on the other hand, purchased more than $19 million in fishing licenses and king stamps. $19 million! I think ADFG will be fortunate if they realize a quarter of the revenue that was generated last year.
It wasn’t a complete season of doom and gloom for the tourist industry. There was a significant increase in Alaskans doing “staycations”. I know of one group who take an annual fishing trip to Canada, but could not this year due travel restrictions. This year they spent their vacation money in state.
Specifically, how did the downturn in tourism affect us? Well, business was way down. Jane and I do feel fortunate for the Alaskans who stayed and fished with us, and for out of state guests who managed all of the challenges to get here. We realize our season could have been much worse.
What does this all mean for 2021? We are cautiously optimistic for a season that approaches normalcy. We’re not alone in our thinking. So do the other 46,000 Alaskans who rely on visitors for their income.
Speaking of next year, if you’re thinking about coming to Beaver Creek Cabins & Guide Service and Alaska in 2021, I wouldn’t hesitate to contact Jane for availability right now. The majority of our cancellations in 2020 pushed their reservation into 2021. That means many of the prime fishing dates are already taken.
Topic next week: the 2020 fishing season in review.
A last minute addition to this post. My neighbors, Ron and MJ, were recently on the river and snapped a series of great moose photos. Thanks guys for being readers of the blog and sharing such awesome photos.
See you next week.