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Sustainable Tourism in Alaska

Alaska Travel Industry AssociationThe Alaska Travel Industry Association, abbreviated as ATIA, is the state’s leading organization for travel-related enterprises and their supporters. At its most recent conference in Anchorage last October, and with all eyes on Alaska’s nearing 2020 tour season, we noticed the conference had a major emphasis on the topic of overtourism. (ATIA uses the term “compression” so we will use that word here too.)

According to ATIA, Alaska saw more than 2.25 million visitors in 2017, injecting $4.5 billion in economic activity and producing 52,000 tourism-related jobs. It is little wonder why maintaining the quality of these destinations is of such importance. After all, tourism is the state’s second largest private sector industry (after oil and gas).

We would like to share some of the things we learned at ATIA about compression and sustainability in Alaska, plus other inspiring initiatives to protect one of our favorite travel destinations on the planet.


Listening to the Locals

With compression comes the risk of overcrowding, and that impacts the lives of the locals who live in affected Alaska communities. ATIA aims for responsible tourism with careful management of how tourism impacts these communities.

One organization, Tourism Best Management Practices (TBMP), has been minimizing tourism’s negative impacts in Southeast Alaska for the last 20 years by listening to and reporting the locals’ concerns to produce effective change on their behalf.

“Overtourism is not a myth. I think that we’re probably not there yet,” said Kirby Day, a longtime Juneau resident who manages TBMP. “But we could be if we don’t continue to go on the path of talking to the community, listening to the community, that’s important, and reacting to some of the things that community members and residents are concerned about.” (Source)

In Juneau, residents may voice their concerns to TBMP by a hotline, email, or a web form. “The great part about this is it creates a dialogue,” Day said at the 2019 ATIA conference. ”Nine times out of ten when we have a dialogue … we can solve it.” (Source)


A Milestone in Sustainable Certification

Adventure Green Alaska (AGA) is the state’s only voluntary certification program for businesses that meet AGA’s particular standards of sustainability in their economic, social, and environmental affairs. In September 2019, these standards were fully recognized by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC). This recognition is significant because GSTC sets global standards used for sustainable certification. Certification perks include use of its logo and access to Adventure Green Alaska promotional opportunities. In the future, ATIA will produce a more advanced version of AGA for businesses who aspire to go above and beyond. At present, more than 60 Alaska businesses have been certified at the standard level.

As a traveler, Adventure Green Alaska provides plenty of resources to connect you to certified businesses and provide you with sustainable travel tips. Learn more about AGA here.


Destination Management in Denali National Park

Preserving Alaska’s most pristine environments is a key component to compression. Of particular interest is Denali National Park, whose caretakers take extraordinary precautions to preserve this six million-acre wilderness. We visit Denali National Park on most Holiday Vacations guided tours to Alaska with a Tundra Wilderness Tour, a 6-8 hour excursion into the park. No private vehicles are allowed more than 13 miles into the park – instead, the National Park Service manages a regulated bus system driven by a trained naturalist. As we travel into the heart of the park, guests are provided a box of snacks during their Denali National Park tour which are made entirely of recyclable material. From the serving size food bags to the box itself, it is all reusable, and our driver-guide is diligent in collecting leftovers before our day in Denali comes to an end.

These efforts are an extension of the Zero Landfill Initiative, a partnership between the National Park Service, Subaru America, park concessionaires, and more to reduce waste in our National Parks. According to NPS, America’s national parks accumulated more than 100 million pounds of waste in 2014.

Learn more about Denali National Park’s Zero Landfill Initiative here.

Posted on December 19th, 2019 in Alaska

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