On the same night an ordinance to institute a 6 percent bed tax peninsula-wide was introduced, the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly heard a report from the executive director of the Kenai Peninsula Tourism Marketing Council on how they and that industry is doing.
"All signs are pointing to the positive," said an enthusiastic Summer Lazenby. "I can't give an exact tourism update at this point because historically it's been sales tax data that is used to define whether or not it's been a good tourism season or not."
The PowerPoint accompanying her presentation showed the KPTMC's revenues are down. Lazenby explained there are several reasons it wasn't as bad as it appeared in the slide.
"2016 to 2017 we doubled the cost of membership, and so you see the huge jump in revenue. And then we're down slightly this year, but I don't know that we're actually down, yes we are down by about $12,000, $13,000, but there's a few things that have direct impact on that. One is timing of purchasing. So you'll see it says 'after discounts.' Depending on when someone bought into the guide or web sales, they got an early bird discount or a different variety of discounts, so it doesn't mean there's less sales, it's just due to timing," she said. "And then there's six members who either merged or retired, and their business closed. So that is what had the impact there."
One place the tourism council has seen tremendous growth and response is on social media, which Lazenby credited to the organization's communications manager Jhasmine Lamb.
"Many of our postings that she puts up gets 25,000-plus interactions or views. Sometimes when we go a little silly they get upwards of 100,000. And then there have been times, lesser so, we have over 500,000 hits," she said.
Lazenby also talked about the new visitors guide, which she said was being printed right now. In it, she said, was the return of promoting the Peninsula as a winter tourism destination.
"One of our priorities has been the off season and shoulder season marketing, because the Kenai is open year-round. You can do things all year here. It's not just that traditional summer season," Lazenby said. "So we created the 'Up to Snow Good' page, and we highlighted some of the very fun things you can do: hiking, fishing, camping - all of those things are still an option in the winter."
The Kenai Peninsula Tourism Marketing Council is partially funded by the Kenai Peninsula Borough.