People have been traveling to the 49th state to visit before it became a state! For more than a century, tourists have come by boat, steamer, cruise ship, plane or RV to see the sights of Alaska. Over the years, tourism has become one of Alaska's top industries and continues to provide a substantial number of jobs in the state.
Visitors and Cruises
According to the Alaska Almanac (31st ed.), in 2006 Alaska welcomed more than 1.6 million visitors between May and September., which is more than twice the number of residents in the state. Cruise ships are one of the most used means of touring Alaska. Approximately 60 percent of summer visitors are cruise ship passengers. Cruise lines that offer Alaska cruises are Carnival, Celebrity, Cruise West, Holland America, Linblad, Majestic America Line, Norwegian Cruise Line, Princess, Regent Seven Seas and Royal Caribbean. Many of these cruises last for 7 to 11 days. The rest of Alaska's visitors arrive mostly by air travel, and a small percentage arrive by ferry or via the Alaska Highway.
The tourism industry is one of Alaska's biggest private-sector employers. Adventure travel to the state has not seen much of a decrease despite hard economic times, though a few more people have been booking cruises instead of traveling independently in the last few years. The unemployment rate fluctuates seasonally in Alaska due to a majority of seasonal jobs such as fishing or tourism. According to the State of Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development, the unemployment rate for June 2009 was 8.4 percent, compared to the U.S rate, which was 9.5.
Regions and Popular Activities
Exploring any of Alaska's five regions will provide opportunity for indulging in the outdoors no matter what your passion is. The five regions are the Southeast (including the Inside Passage), Southcentral, Southwest, Interior and Far North. A majority of tourist attractions are in the Southeast, Southcentral and interior regions, though for the more adventurous there are travel possibilities in the others as well. Alaska is famous for its fishing; wildlife viewing, including whale watching; backcountry wilderness and hiking; skiing and ice climbing; dog sledding; sight-seeing by helicopter or float plane; as well as sea kayaking. The state offers more than 75 parks, including national parks, preserves, refuges and monuments, as well as historical sites and parks, national forests and state parks.