Two Native corporations have a vision for Alaska tourism

Two major Alaska Native corporations have big plans to change the tourism landscape in the state by focusing on what they call the underserved market for cultural tourism. 

Southeast Alaska’s Huna Totem Corp. and Doyon Ltd., based in the interior, formed a 50-50 joint venture called Na-Dena last month and quickly acquired an 80% stake in Juneau-based Alaska Independent Coach Tours, including its Seattle-based operation, Pacific Alaska Tours.

Huna Totem, the owner and operator of Icy Strait Point, the popular cruise port, and Fairbanks-based Doyon, which has lodges, tours and concessions in Denali National Park, said that Na-Dena will aim to fill “an underserved opportunity” in cultural tourism. 

“We expect that we’ll be welcoming, through this partnership and our existing visitors, around 80% of the market of tourists coming to Alaska,” said Mickey Richardson, Huna Totem’s director of marketing. “And that’s a big number.

Not only is it a big number, but also it’s a big responsibility. We really want to up the quality of the experience that’s happening in Alaska as part of this and also represent” Alaska Native tourism.

Na-Dena, he said, is looking at opportunities in lodging and tour development throughout the state that are both sustainable and have a “cultural slant.” 

Richardson said that Alaska’s interior is among the areas with a lot of opportunity beyond Denali, where the majority of tourism is focused. 

“Denali is a great experience, but we think there are other experiences as we look at interior products and expansion to that area,” he said. 

Huna Totem also hopes to build a second cruise ship dock in Whittier, near Anchorage, with plans that include many of the features that have been successful in Icy Strait Point, including shops, a gondola and a cultural center.

As part of Na-Dena’s plans to expand in the interior, it is assessing opportunities for Alaska Independent Coach Tours, which currently offers tours to cruise passengers in Juneau, Ketchikan, Skagway and Sitka as well as Seattle.

Na-Dena said it will retain the motorcoach operator’s management team to continue its day-to-day operations as they work together to launch new packages and products.

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