Dunleavy is proposing a $5M grant for Alaska tourism efforts

People outside, looking through binoculars.
Guide Solan Jensen, left, watches a bear through binoculars during a tour with Greg and Cindy Clark of Idaho. The Clarks were visiting Pack Creek, on Admiralty Island, on Wednesday, May 26, 2021. (Nat Herz/Alaska Public Media)

Gov. Mike Dunleavy said Monday he plans to propose as part of his upcoming budget a $5 million grant to support tourism marketing efforts amid the ongoing pandemic and funds to prepare state parks for visitors.

He said the hope is for a return to “robust” tourism activity after a difficult two years. Speaking in Anchorage, Dunleavy said people are “starting to learn to live with the coronavirus, “understanding that it’s not going to go away but there’s ways to protect oneself.”

There have been promising signs on the tourism front, he noted, citing such things as passenger figures at the major airport in Anchorage and hotel occupancy levels in some communities.

Dunleavy’s office credited a prior marketing effort with helping draw tourists to Alaska this year, including independent travelers. Large cruise ships returned this year after being sidelined amid COVID-19 concerns last year.

Dunleavy’s office said he has proposed a $5 million grant in federal funds for the Alaska Travel Industry Association. The money comes from the American Rescue Plan, a $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill Congress passed in March with no Republican votes. The grant is subject to approval by the Alaska Legislature.

Dunleavy said he also would seek $1 million for state parks to ensure facilities are “clean and accessible” for visitors. That funding would come from the tax on rental cars, according to Patty Sullivan, a spokeswoman for the governor’s office.

Dunleavy indicated plans to release his budget proposal Wednesday. The Legislature convenes a new regular session next month.

The Alaska Tourism Industry Association also got a $10.5 million federal grant in November and a $5 million grant in January.

ATIA President Sarah Leonard said the group plans to market Alaska in a digital and television campaign with the goal of boosting the 2022 visitor season.

Alaska Public Media’s Liz Ruskin contributed to this story.

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