Using Niche Markets to Sell Alaska

Alaska’s products are as diverse as the people who are lining up to visit. The biggest challenge in selling Alaska is matching the traveler to the right activity and style.

Your job as a consultant is to qualify, listen and help travelers identify their needs and wants, then create a trip that meets those needs and satisfies those wants. And our job at The Travel Institute is to help you gain the knowledge you need to create those trips. The following information is taken from our newly relaunched Alaska Destination Specialist Course. If you have Premium Access, it’s available to you for free.

Niche marketing gives travel counselors the chance to focus on groups of travelers with special interests. Here is a glimpse of some Alaskan niche markets.

This category includes almost any outdoor-oriented activity with an element of physical challenge. Some adventure tour suppliers offer luxury at exclusive lodges and services by naturalists and local guides; others create bare-bones trips where participants share cooking and dishwashing duties, sleep in tents and buy optional activities along the way. Participants demand value and service for their vacation dollars and are getting both.

Mixing and matching products from different suppliers moves customers from package tour participants to independent travelers.

Some parts of the state—the Kenai Peninsula corridor from Homer and Seward to Anchorage (Southcentral), and north to Denali National Park and Preserve and Fairbanks (Interior)—have road systems that invite travel by car, recreational vehicle (RV), rail, or bicycle. Those who want to roam farther can use the Alaska Marine Highway ferries to travel at their own pace, renting cars or bikes at each stop to explore locally and then moving on.

People who like being in control of their days enjoy driving to and within Alaska. Most visitors fly into Anchorage and drive a loop route that eventually brings them back to the city. The two most popular circle drives are from Anchorage to Denali and Fairbanks on the Parks Highway and then back on the Richardson and Glenn highways; or by car to Whittier, ferry to Valdez, and back on the Richardson and Glenn highways.

Another route is touring the Kenai Peninsula, accessed via the Seward Highway from Anchorage to Seward and the Sterling Highway to Kenai, Soldotna, and Homer.

The Alaska Highway is the land route into Alaska from the Lower 48. The paved all-season highway runs from Dawson Creek, British Columbia, to highways near Fairbanks, Alaska. Drivers can count on up to a week to get to Alaska, although the trip can be shorter or longer, depending on the distance driven and lengths of stops each day. Gas stations, motels, and markets along the highway remain open all year, although services are more limited in winter.

Native Cultures
Special-interest products tend to focus on Native culture, but they also can include Russian influences, gold rush history, and similar, depending on traveler’s interests and the tour operator offerings. Native culture tours could include any part of Alaska from the Inside Passage to the Far North.

Tours focusing on Russian culture include the Aleutian Islands, Kodiak Island, Anchorage, and Sitka. Gold rush tours follow the Inside Passage north, with stops in Juneau and Skagway, plus visits to museum and mining sites in Anchorage, Fairbanks, and Nome.

Wildlife Encounters
Alaska is known for its abundant and pristine wilderness. Nowhere else can travelers observe so many polar bears, bald eagles, whales, grizzlies, and moose in their natural habitats. Wildlife packages arranged by knowledgeable wholesalers are the perfect way to see wildlife in a convenient, fun, and safe manner. Specialties include bear viewing, bird watching, and marine life viewing. Wildlife rehabilitation and research centers offer the opportunity to see animals up close with the benefit of naturalists and other experts on hand to explain biology and behavior. A birding package can put watchers almost within touching distance of puffins or other species that are seldom seen farther south.

Bear-watching camps have built decks and elevated observation facilities near rapids and waterfalls where bears congregate. By keeping visitors above the bears, they can remain close enough to watch without interfering with natural feeding patterns or putting observers at risk. At the end of the day, clients retire to lodges reminiscent of the luxury camps associated with upscale African safaris.

Alaska offers scenery, adventure, and unforgettable wildlife. To learn more about this popular destination, enroll in the Alaska Destination Specialist Course. Premium Access members can access this and many other courses for free in their membership lounge. Not sure what Premium Access has to offer? Be sure to attend our Premium Access-Unlimited Learning webinar on March 23 at 2:30 pm (EDT).