New Alliances in Alaska

Strategy: Emphasize Value, Enhance Your Product, Serve Local Community

Type of attraction: Arts Organization, Museum/Historic Site

Summary: Tourism in Alaska has always been heavily influenced by the cruise industry.

Tourism in Alaska has always been heavily influenced by the cruise industry. When a new Alaska Native Heritage Center opened in Anchorage with heavy backing from the cruise industry in 1999, the summer season visitation at the nearby Anchorage Museum dropped by nearly 50% within two years.  A few years later, the Alaska Native Heritage Center approached the Anchorage Museum to see if the museum could be included as a stop on the free shuttle service the Heritage Center was starting. The Anchorage Museum agreed, but with the caveat that a new joint ticket for both museums be created. This partnership resulted in the Alaska Culture Pass which offers admission to both museums at more than a 20% discount from the price of individual tickets. The Heritage Center provides the free shuttle service, the Anchorage Museum finances much of the marketing collateral materials, and both facilities co-op the program’s advertising and promotion for the Culture Pass.

This initial partnership has blossomed into a strong working relationship between these two major cultural institutions in Anchorage. “We became partners and not competitors,” explains Janet Asaro, director of marketing and public relations for the Anchorage Museum. “The Culture Pass helped to cement the relationship between the two organizations. Now we meet for lunch and compare our numbers and marketing strategies on a regular basis.” The two organizations have also shared a booth at tourism shows and are looking at joint programming.

While tourism in Alaska has dropped fairly significantly with the downturn in the economy, Asaro reports that the Anchorage Museum is still holding its own in the summer of 2010. Asaro attributes this to the press coverage and interest in the museum’s recent expansion which doubled the size of the facility from 90,000 square feet to 180,000 square feet. The addition, completed in early 2010, was designed by an internationally renowned architect and includes ample space for larger changing exhibits, an attractive new public common space and a new Smithsonian gallery featuring a collection of Alaska Native artifacts that are now at the museum on long-term loan. The ability to host changing exhibits from other museums and the creation of a public common space has also increased the museum’s appeal for local Alaskans.