The Kenai Peninsula Tourism Marketing Council, which assesses the impact of tourism on the Kenai Peninsula annually, has a better idea of just how much economic stimulus tourists bring with them.
For the first time, KPTMC commissioned a Kenai Peninsula-specific report from the McDowell Group, which collects statewide data every five years for the Alaska State Visitor Statistics Program.
The non-profit typically gathers stats from borough sales tax data, but KPTMC Executive Director Summer Lazenby explains the state report is more extensive.
Lazenby said the numbers, which are from 2016, are surprising.
“It was a five-month window for the summer of 2016. Over 500,000 people came to the Kenai,” she said. “It was 562,000, which the Kenai Peninsula only has a population of over 50,000. To think 10 times that came into the Kenai is pretty fascinating.”
The report found that tourists spend about 11 days on average in the state, and visitors who chose the Kenai Peninsula as their destination spend about five days on average in the borough.
Lazenby said those visitors fuel a good number of jobs.
“From the study, they were able to determine that there are 2,500 jobs. These jobs simply exist because tourists are coming, with a total labor income of $69 million,” Lazenby said.
That figure does not include revenue from in-state visitors.
Each job created by the tourism industry on the peninsula makes about $27,000 on average during the season. The report also estimates that another 600 indirect jobs are created as well.
But Lazenby said the report does show room for improvement. About 40 percent of the peninsula’s tourists arrive via cruise ships.
“Cruise passengers spend an average of two nights on the Kenai and also spend $55 per person on the Kenai,” Lazenby explained.
That’s significantly less than roughly $330 other tourists spend per day. Lazenby said KPTMC will be looking for ways to keep cruise passengers on the peninsula longer.
“Instead of those cruise passengers typically hopping on the train and heading up to Denali,” Lazenby added. “Denali is wonderful, but the Kenai is also.”
She said the non-profit will also be looking for ways to entice more Alaskans to visit the peninsula during the shoulder season in late fall and early spring.