Originally created 04/29/01

TV ads aim to lure winter visits to Alaska



The Alaska visitor industry is preparing to spend $1.2 million on a national television campaign to market the state as a year-round destination.

Ads will appear on cable networks like the Discovery Channel promoting Alaska as a spot where adventure never ends, according to Tina Lindgren, president of the Alaska Travel Industry Association.

It's part of an aggressive, multi-pronged strategy that the travel association, the Anchorage Convention & Visitors Bureau and others are planning to launch next fall to promote Alaska as a winter destination.

The marketing effort, however, still entails coming up with a catchy slogan that will capture Alaska's winter appeal.

"Alaska Adventure Knows No Season," offered Dennis Brandon, president of tourism for Cook Inlet Region Inc.

Others half jokingly suggested, "Ice is Nice."

Well, maybe not. Alaska has been branded as a cold, dark place in winter. It needs to leverage the positive, said Erick Borland of Polaris Marketing Group.

The winter marketing campaign also includes a brochure that will be developed by Mark Eliason of Explore Tours, an Anchorage-based tourism company. The brochure will feature Alaska businesses that offer winter tourism opportunities, as well as festivals and events, such as the Iditarod and Fur Rendezvous. The pamphlets will be ready by September and distributed to travel agents nationwide, but particularly in the Pacific Northwest where most of Alaska's winter tourists originate, Eliason said.

Alaska has no shortage of products to offer winter tourists, such as skiing, dog mushing, ice fishing, northern lights and flight-seeing, to name a few. But it hasn't done a good job of packaging and promoting them as a statewide effort, several involved with the promotional effort said.

Places like Whistler, British Columbia; Sun Valley, Idaho, and the Reno-Lake Tahoe area of Nevada have done a better job at marketing themselves as winter destinations, said Borland. Alaska could learn a lot from Reno-Lake Tahoe, in particular, because it has a lot in common with Anchorage in that it offers both urban and rural activities and targets Washington, Oregon and California tourists.

Reno is trying to shed its gambling image and has tried to reinvent itself through marketing to highlight the surrounding mountains and desert. "Your Natural Selection," beckoned one tourist ad from the past season. "Earth, Wind and Fire," read another.

Alaska needs to develop a similar brand name, say experts.