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Fairbanks tourism industry optimistic for summer despite staffing shortage, lack of rental cars

Updated: May. 19, 2021 at 4:10 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - With the summer tourism season fast approaching, the Fairbanks visitor industry remains optimistic despite obstacles.

After facing hardships due to COVID-19, the tourism job market has made a return with more positions available.

According to Deb Hickok, CEO of Explore Fairbanks, the hiring market for employers in the tourism industry is very competitive this year. Hickok explained, “We have jobs in the tourism industry, that’s for sure, and you know it’s not going to be near 2019 but we are optimistic compared to last summer, 2020. There are definitely job openings and it’s very competitive right now to find employees. We did have a job fair last Friday. We had about 20 employers represented at that fair, and we had 235 attendees over a two and a half hour period. So people came out and how that works out I’m not sure, but I think we’ll continue to see those employers and others look for employees and probably you’ll see some creative efforts in trying to get employees.”

However, there are obstacles that the tourism industry faces as the summer season approaches. Hickok said, “You know we’re optimistic by nature because we’re frontline and sales people, so we always put on our game face. But there’s so many variables that we just don’t know how they’re going to work out. There’s the cruise variable right - whether or not cruise ships will be able to sail later in the summer, the large cruise ships. There’s capacity issues with employees as well as with rental cars. That’s the other thing that we are working on. Very shortly we’ll be releasing a blog on how you can get around Fairbanks without necessarily renting a car and just all the kind of alternatives we see. Attractions and activities providing their own transportation, we’re going to be listing those. So we have some capacity issues, we think demand’s increased, but then we have to address these capacity issues at the same time.”

Despite this, while this year’s summer season may not be the best, it is a step in the right direction towards recovery in the coming years according to Hickok.

“I do think we have 33% more capacity at Fairbanks International than we had in summer of 2019. So now we have the seats, and now it’s filling the seats and addressing those capacity issues because we have to host visitors appropriately when they get here. So hopefully all the stars will align so we can have a decent summer.”

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