State officials hope China-LNG deal will boost tourism in Alaska

Published: Nov. 23, 2017 at 5:39 AM AKST
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Although the governor and his administration have stressed the significant work that lies ahead before building a liquefied natural gas pipeline in Alaska, state officials hope it won’t be the only draw between China and Alaska.

Tourism is just one of the industries hoping to benefit from the potential deal. On Tuesday, Governor Bill Walker said the state is looking at the possibility of adding scheduled direct flights to and from China.

“At 1.4 billion people in China of which 100 million go on holiday a year, boy we’d sure like to get a slice of those going on holiday,” said Gov. Walker on Tuesday.

Besides cargo and charter flights, the only way to get from China to Alaska directly is an 18 hour travel day with connections in the lower 48. But recently the governor announced the state is exploring scheduled direct flights to Asia that would cut that travel time nearly in half.

“Everybody is excited about the kind of numbers, I mean we would really only need one person of one percent to surpass everything we’ve seen in the domestic market so far,” said David Kasser with Visit Anchorage.

Kasser says the average traveler spends about $1,000 a trip to Alaska. Those visiting from Asia, however, spend about three times that.

“When they come here, they are spending money and they are buying luxury items,” said Kasser.

Tourism industry officials say activities like the Iditarod, the northern lights and just the shear beauty of winter makes Alaska's attractive to the Chinese not just in the Summer but also the Winter.