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Issue Position: Tourism

Issue Position

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Location: Unknown

Alaska's natural beauty and bountiful wildlife are near and dear to all of our hearts. Our close relationship with Alaska's wildlife is evident in our everyday lives, from hiking and camping to fishing and hunting, or even just going for a Sunday drive. They are also important economic engines for our state. Tourism produces about 37,500 jobs and generates revenue for local communities -- each year tourists leave behind approximately $1 billion. While tough economic times have limited tourism growth, I believe we can tap additional markets through improved marketing, spread visitors out across the state to prevent overcrowding and help more parts of Alaska benefit, and expand on the potential for winter tourism.

Alaska is unique. Those of us lucky enough to live here already know that, but we must find new and creative ways to promote that fact to our neighbors in the Lower 48 and around the world.

I helped create the Kenai Mountains-Turnagain Arm National Heritage Area to highlight the history of the Kenai Peninsula. The designation authorizes the National Park Service to provide up to $1 million annually to promote the historic route from Seward to Girdwood, including parts of the Iditarod Historic Trail near Hope, as a tourist destination. I will continue to work to replicate this success across Alaska since every one of our communities has a unique story to tell.

While we want to increase the number of tourists -- and their dollars -- coming to Alaska, we also want to keep congestion down to keep the wild mystique of Alaska alive and make everyone's experience, tourist and local alike, a positive one. In pursuit of that goal, I've obtained funding for continued improvements to visitor facilities in Denali National Park and won passage of legislation to allow the Alaska Railroad to expand its track inside the park so that trains can turn around at the Denali Park Station and head south, thus increasing train service to the destination.

I also obtained funding to improve Brooks Camp, the headquarters for Katmai National Park and Preserve, and funding to construct new visitors centers in the Cape Krusenstern National Monument near Kotzebue, the Kobuk Valley National Park and the Noatak National Preserve. These new visitors centers will help open up additional parts of our state to tourism and provide a source of revenue to the local communities.

I will continue my work on a new South Denali Visitors Center to reduce tourist congestion in Denali, as well as efforts to restore the Kennecott Mine site in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and upgrade facilities at Glacier Bay National Park.

I am also looking for ways to support the growth of our winter tourism to help reduce the peaks and valleys that seasonal employment brings. We have a world class ski resort in Alyeska and plenty of winter sporting activities across the state. And, of course, many already come to see the brilliant Aurora Borealis in the coldest months. We have plenty to offer even the most discriminating tourist -- regardless of the time of year.


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