Iditarod Coin

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Iditarod Coin

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Minting silver Iditarod coins for 2010

Visit anchorage Visit Alaska: drawing dollars for communities, explorers for state.


World Beard and Moustache Championships

 came for a visit. So
did the Association of Band and Instrument Repair Technicians.
Astronomers, too--more than 1,000 members of the American

 including telescope-toting
 see National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

 in full National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Independent U.S.
 scientists traveled to
Alaska's largest city in June to share their love of the stars.

Conventions and meetings in Anchorage bring tens of thousands of
visitors every year. Despite a sagging economy, Visit Anchorage--the
city's convention and visitor organization--has booked $95 million
to $100 million worth of meetings in Anchorage annually for five years
according to

1. As stated or indicated by; on the authority of:

2. In keeping with:

 Julie Dodds, Visit Anchorage's convention
sales director.

"Everybody's dream is to visit Alaska," Dodds says.
"Having a meeting here provides that opportunity."

While the majority of Anchorage's convention traffic comes
from in-state groups, roughly 40 percent of the city's conference
and meeting guests hail from the Lower 48 or other countries.

Along with the time they spend in Anchorage on business, those
outside guests tack a few days on to their trips to see a little more of
the state--fishing on the
Kenai Peninsula
 , S Alaska, jutting c.150 mi (240 km) into the Gulf of Alaska, between Prince William Sound and Cook Inlet. The Kenai Mts., c.7,000 ft (2,130 m) high, occupy most of the peninsula.
, traveling to the Mat-Su for
some hiking or taking the
Alaska Railroad

Denali National Park


They visit Anchorage--and then explore the state for a few extra

Stay, Then Play

Hard numbers on the effect Visit Anchorage has on other tourist
destinations are hard to come by.

The state doesn't track those numbers, according to economist
Neal Fried, with the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce

A standard formula established by Destination Marketing
Associations International estimates $974 per delegate per day. In-state
visitors tend to spend less, more like $470 per delegate per day.

It's likely, however, that Anchorage visitors spend more. For
one, a gift shop on Fourth Avenue selling ulu knives, smoked salmon and
birch bowls might drum up more business than a comparable shop in

downtown Cleveland


For another, an unknown but significant number of delegates meet in
Anchorage and then leave the municipality for additional travel. Some
may bring relatives with them to take advantage of a once-in-a-lifetime

While there is no official marketing campaign to lure convention
guests outside Anchorage, Visit Anchorage works with its nearly 1,200
members to promote wider trips, according to Julie Saupe, its president
and chief executive officer.

At trade shows, Visit Anchorage sets up a table with information
about trips around Anchorage, Saupe says. But members are welcome to
advertise their services as well.


 can promote its glacier tours or the Alaska Railroad can talk
up a Denali trip.

"In convention sales we really try to sell Anchorage but we
know people want to explore," she says. "We figure if
we've got 'era for three or four nights then they can get out
and explore the rest of the state."

A World-Class Meeting Locale The Alliance of Hazardous Materials
Professionals brought about 600 members to the Egan Center in September.

The 3,400-member group based in Bethesda, Md., sought out a special
destination for its 2012 annual meeting, says Executive Director Cedric

"It was our twenty-fifth anniversary and we wanted to do
something in a location that you can't see and do for the same
amount of money much anywhere else in the world," Calhoun says.

The Egan provided ample room and service, and Alaska's
environmental regulations represent some of the toughest in the country,
he says, so the environmental health and safety professionals gathered
for the conference had plenty to talk about.

Plus the trip actually cost about $200 per person less than a
comparable conference in Seattle; airfare cost more, but lodging and
food/beverage costs were lower.

Regardless, the real attraction was the destination itself.

"It's a true testament to the draw of Alaska--we

 our room block at the hotel by about 500 room nights," Calhoun
says. "People came in a week early or stayed a week late."

Many traveled to Denali National Park or took glacier tours by
helicopter or boat tour. Others spent the night at the Alyeska Hotel in
Girdwood. About a dozen took a post-conference cruise from Seward to
Vancouver, B.C.

With help from Visit Anchorage, Calhoun says conference organizers
could lay out different agendas for attendees: "Here are some
things that you can do in town with a free day--or if you're coming
in early, here are three- or four-day packages you can take advantage of
as well."

Building in Time to Travel

Anchorage's twin convention facilities, the Egan Center and
the Dena'ina Center, represent the largest such facilities in the
state. The city's hotels boast ample rooms, so it's a
no-brainer that people booking meetings and conferences in Alaska look
to Anchorage first--but Anchorage has an additional marketing tool: the
rest of the state.

"Anchorage has an advantage as a meeting destination because
of the 'I always wanted to go there' factor that doesn't
have to do with the meeting; it has to do with pre- or post- additional
days at the destination," says Bonnie Quill, executive director of
the Matanuska-Susitna Convention and Visitors Bureau.

The Mat-Su bureau's board supported the construction of the
Dena'ina Center, which opened in 2008. Directors knew the
additional convention delegates would bring new visitors to the Mat-Su
too, says Quill.

The City of Palmer conducted
a feasibility study

 for a convention
center but found that limited lodging in the area could prove a
challenge. What the area has to offer is its incredible natural beauty:
the Talkeetna and Chugach mountains,
Denali State Park

, funky yet scenic
downtown Talkeetna, the Knik and Matanuska glaciers, and salmon streams
and sled dog kennels.

"When Anchorage is reaching out for meetings, they're
actually showing pictures of Hatcher Pass or Talkeetna," Quill
says. "We recognize that, they recognize that. So of course
we're both partners in supporting conventions."

Sometimes delegates attending Anchorage events come out to the
Mat-Su for team-building exercises, she says. Vern Halter, an Iditarod
musher who runs the Dream a Dream kennel in Willow, takes conventioneers
on dog-sled rides in summer and winter--but added travel days beyond the
meeting make up most of the benefit that Anchorage conventions give the
Mat-Su, Quill says. "People are going to come all this way. They
say 'I travel, I'll add an additional day just to explore the

'Our Best Customer'

Alaska generates more than half the convention and meeting traffic
that comes to Anchorage, or about 60 percent of the convention and
meeting business.

"Alaska is probably our best customer," Dodds says.
"We love our state meetings. They tend to come back almost annually
because we do have the largest facilities and the most hotel

The Denai'na Center has a capacity of roughly 2,500. The Egan
can hold 1,200 people.

Some examples of in-state groups that convened in Anchorage: the
Governor's Health and Safety Council, the Alaska State School Board
and the Alaska Center for the Environment.

The biggest gathering by far is the Alaska Federation of Natives,
which holds annual meetings in Fairbanks or Anchorage. Alaska Natives
from around the state come together to talk politics and policy but also
to reunite and visit. The
arts and crafts
 term for that general field of applied design in which hand fabrication is dominant. The term was coined in England in the late 19th cent. as a label for the then-current movement directed toward the revivifying of the decorative arts.
 show is famous for the
high-quality Native art sold there.


AFN Alesco Financial Inc
AFN Alaska Federation of Natives
 draws a peak of 3,500 people, according to Dodds. The next
closest meeting, in terms of numbers, was the 2005 American Fisheries
Society which numbered about 2,800.

AFN is also the most fun, says Saupe. "It's a gathering.
It's a homecoming."

Going National

Visit Anchorage handles its marketing for in-state clientele with
one sales manager who tracks in-state meeting planners and helps them
find space, Dodds says.

Visit Anchorage's national and international recruiting
involves numerous sales managers with different territories throughout
the United States, she says.

Three concentrate on the East Coast, including Washington, D.C.,
home to the largest association base in the world. One manager works out
of Chicago, the home base for the American Bar Association and a hotbed
for medical meetings. And another focuses on the oil and gas industry in

National and international clients tend to book three to five years
out. The National Right of Way Association, for example, just chose
Anchorage for its 2017 meeting.

Meeting and convention guests from Outside tend to return to
Alaska, Dodds says.

"A lot of time they don't add enough days," she
says. "We get a lot of people who come back, both as independent
travelers and for meetings."

Ducks Unlimited, a national wetlands and
 common term for members of the order Anseriformes, wild, aquatic, typically freshwater birds including ducks, geese, and screamers. In Great Britain the term is also used to designate species kept for ornamental purposes on private lakes or ponds, while in
nonprofit with more than 500,000 members, plans to convene in Anchorage
in 2016. That will make the group's third Anchorage conference in
20 years.

Calhoun, with the Hazardous Materials group, says people who
attended the Anchorage conference this year want to return.

"In a number of evaluations and even on site, folks were
asking when we're coming back," he says. "So it's
definitely on their minds. People who attended absolutely loved

Zaz Hollander is a journalist living in Palmer.

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