Sitka’s visitor marketing program, Visit Sitka, is due for a strategic review. The Sitka Assembly recently met with the Chamber of Commerce to discuss the program’s direction. While Visit Sitka has demonstrably increased tourism, Assembly members are questioning its current focus and budget.

Success of Visit Sitka Raises Questions About Future Direction

The Sitka Chamber of Commerce took over visitor marketing responsibilities in 2015 and has seen significant success. Director Rachel Roy highlighted increased tourism throughout the summer season, with many businesses filling up months in advance. However, Assembly members are concerned that the program’s mission might have shifted away from its original focus on independent travelers.

Concerns Over Budget and Cruise Tourism Focus

The Assembly is scrutinizing the program’s budget, which has grown to include a $275,000 annual supplement to the base funding of $300,000. Furthermore, the recent surge in cruise ship tourism has prompted questions about whether Visit Sitka should cater more towards independent travelers who contribute to the bed tax, a major source of program funding.

Possible Restructuring and Renewed Focus on Independent Travelers

The Assembly is considering requesting proposals (RFP) from different organizations to potentially restructure Sitka’s visitor marketing efforts. Assembly member Thor Christianson proposes refocusing Visit Sitka on independent travelers, arguing that they are the primary source of revenue through the bed tax. However, Director Roy emphasizes the connection between cruise ship passengers and independent travelers, with many independent visitors having first come to Alaska on a cruise.

The future of Sitka’s visitor marketing program remains uncertain. The Assembly aims to balance the needs of both independent travelers and cruise ship passengers while ensuring efficient use of program funds.

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