Obama Appoints Alaskan to National Tourism Advisory Board

President Obama has appointed an Alaskan to an advisory board for U.S. Travel and Tourism. He chose the CEO of Alaska Wildland Adventures. The appointment is part of a push to boost the tourism economy.

President Obama appointed Alaska Wildland Adventures CEO Kirk Hoessle to the national visitor industry advisory board this week, at the recommendation of Senator Mark Begich. Hoessle runs the Girdwood-based adventure travel company. He says he hopes to bring an Alaskan voice to the table.

“I felt a little bit outta place at first cause we’re such a tiny company. I knew that there are…were leaders of some very large companies that were usually involved with this sort of thing, but it was very encouraging. It appears that the secretary of commerce went out of his way to make sure that there were lots of viewpoints represented,” Hoessle said.

Hoessle’s is one of 32 people appointed to the board. The president is calling on the advisory board to help boost the U.S. tourism economy. His goal is job creation. Hoessle says, after years of developing a tourism business in Alaska that takes the environment into account, he hopes to share what he’s learned.

“One of the things that has always been a priority for us is for us to operate in a low impact manor, in a sustainable manor. As more and more people are conscious of choices they make in their lifestyle — trying to conserve energy, trying to have a lighter footprint on the earth … research is showing that more and people are setting out to purchase vacation services that leave a lighter footprint and I think that a lot of the concepts, a lot of the lessons learned over the years in Alaska we can share with our colleagues across the states,” Hoessle said.

Alaska’s Travel and tourism industry is driving more than $2 billion in spending annually and employing in excess of 40,000 people. It’s doing better than the Lower 48’s. But Hoessle says there are still challenges.

“Alaska’s a long distance destination for most people, therefore it can be expensive to get here, it takes more time. That’s why we had the downturns in travel and tourism after the events of September 11th – that’s why we had the downturn after 2008, 2009 – the recession. And while we have seen some growth we’re still on our way back as an industry,” Hoessle said.

Hoessle says one bright spot in his business over the past few years has been an increase in international visitors. Hoessle says making it easier for foreigners to visit the U.S. and bring their dollars here is something President Obama touched on when he addressed the Advisory Board.

“International travel is very important to Alaska, it’s a growing area. We’re seeing growth in countries where we really haven’t been able to do any marketing such as Brazil and India and Israel. I mean people are coming anyway and if we can help nurture these markets it’s going to benefit Alaska and all of the United States,” Hoessle said.

The advisory board had their first board meeting this week in Orlando. Hoessle attended and says they discussed an array of issues, of particular interest was an update on ongoing efforts by the federal government to streamline the tourist visa process.

“As I understand it, more and more employees are being added to facilitate that training on processing and streamlining the whole visa process is something that’s in the works right now which could be a very good thing — more and more travelers, especially from some of these emerging markets such as Brazil and China,” Hoessle said.

And Hoessle says he hopes he’ll be seeing more and more visitors to Alaska from Brazil and China by the time the upcoming tourism season rolls around again in April, that’s right around the same time he’ll meet again with the national visitor industry advisory board again in Los Angeles.

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Daysha Eaton is a contributor with the Alaska Public Radio Network. Daysha Eaton holds a B.A. from Evergreen State College, and a M.A. from the University of Southern California. Daysha got her start in radio at Seattle public radio stations, KPLU and KUOW. Before coming to KBBI, she was the News Director at KYUK in Bethel. She has also worked as the Southcentral Reporter for KSKA in Anchorage. Daysha's work has appeared on NPR's "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered", PRI's "The World" and "National Native News". She's happy to take assignments, and to get news tips, which are best sent via email. Daysha became a journalist because she believes in the power of storytelling. Stories connect us and they help us make sense of our world. They shed light on injustice and they comfort us in troubled times. She got into public broadcasting because it seems to fulfill the intention of the 4th Estate and to most effectively apply the freedom of the press granted to us through the Constitution. She feels that public radio has a special way of moving people emotionally through sound, taking them to remote places, introducing them to people they would not otherwise meet and compelling them to think about issues they might ordinarily overlook.