Fairbanks summer tourism season picks up post-pandemic

With the COVID-19 pandemic entering the rearview mirror, many of its effects in Alaska are fading.
Published: Jun. 12, 2023 at 6:25 PM AKDT|Updated: Jun. 12, 2023 at 6:34 PM AKDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - With the COVID-19 pandemic entering the rearview mirror, many of its effects in Alaska are fading.

According to Explore Fairbanks President and CEO Scott McCrea, “We’re seeing more a return to normalcy.”

Tourists come to Fairbanks in a variety of ways during the summer. Around 41 percent of these travelers come via cruise ship, McCrea said. This includes “those who are doing cross-gulf Alaska cruises and then doing a land tour component.”

Just before the pandemic, 2019′s summer cruise numbers proved record-breaking. Now, this year could give that season a run for its money. “This summer is a record cruise season, estimated to be a record cruise season, for the entire state of Alaska,” McCrea explained.

Meanwhile, direct flights from Frankfurt, Germany to Fairbanks bring in international travelers. “That’s always been a big market for us in the summer time, and there’s new international markets that are kind of coming back now,” he said.

Some visitors simply hit the open road from the lower-48, like “the RV travelers from Canada and the U.S. coming to Alaska. Last year we thought it would come back a little bit stranger than it did, but I think gas prices kind of deterred a lot of people from making that trip,” said McCrea.

All pandemic-related travel restrictions through Canada long since lifted, allowing for freer passage along the Alaska Highway.

McCrea said Explore Fairbanks gets its numbers from different industry markers throughout the Interior, including hotels and transportation. “I think it gives us a good indication of just how we’re doing.”

With more people expected to visit Fairbanks, is the local economy ready? McCrea said, “A big challenge for last summer was labor shortage, and that seems to be back to, getting up to the 2019 numbers too, in terms of our hotels, restaurants, tour companies having the necessary workforce to be in place to be able to meet the influx of visitors.”

While Fairbanks draws tourists year-round, the summer has activities that exemplify life in the 49th state.

Peak summer season is expected to last from mid-June through the month of July.