Rural Tourism Summit Invites Discussion and Innovation

logo-w-sunburstKayla Desroches/KMXT

An upcoming rural tourism summit will gather people together from all ends of the island to brainstorm how to incorporate the communities into island tourism. Discover Kodiak Executive Director Chastity McCarthy says that could mean more camp sites, expanded ferry service, or day tours to the villages. But, she says, the forum is a chance for communities to share their ideas.

“The way that we kind of started the communication about this is our membership and our rural community members, so maybe lodgers, operators in Old Harbor and Ouzinkie, they all reached out to us and said they feel underrepresented. This was a couple of years back, so going forward we thought well, how can we have these talks in a manner that would allow us to grow tourism to those areas?”

McCarthy says the Kodiak Housing Authority holds a rural tourism summit every year and she did a presentation at that meeting to feel out interest from the villages.

She says the Discover Kodiak summit is part of a rural tourism workshop series through consulting company Pandion. McCarthy says it’ll be mostly open discussion, and guest speakers will fly in from around the state.

“For instance, a speaker from Sitka Tribal Tours. They develop tribal tours in rural areas very carefully surrounding the cultural aspect. They’ll be able to present about how they did that. We have some adventure marketers coming in who do adventures out into remote lands like multi-day trekking and things of that nature.”

McCarthy says they’ll spend the last two days on strategic planning and figuring out how to build tourism on the island. There are already a growing number of tourists who want to visit Kodiak, according to McCarthy, and the type of tourist is changing too.

“We’ve always had older, fishing, male. We’re starting to see independent, younger, and female, so there’s a large independent  adventure traveler that loves Alaska and is seeking Alaska product, and we need to start learning how we can offer that to them.”

She says adventure tourism is a big attraction. That could look like an extended camping expedition or a long hike between villages.

“For instance, Old Harbor to the City of Kodiak. People do that trip, but it’s not something that even as a marketer of tourism I’m familiar with. I’ve never marketed that. So it would be looking into that route, understanding that route, understanding the land use problems that come with that route and how we could maybe advertise it to the market that loves it.”

The tourism summit is about finding out where the demand is and how island residents can provide that product, whether in the form of fishy food and culinary delights or bush-whacking in the wilds of Kodiak. The summit is next Monday to Thursday at the Koniag meeting space.

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