Improve Your Bottom Line! Expand Your Tourism Season Into September

Is It Time To Extend Your Season?

Visitors from Outside enjoy a continental breakfast at a Kenai Peninsula B&B in mid-September.

Happy travelers are those who feel they're making contact with Alaska's communities.

For years, the Kenai has had a secret. They have a fall season.

By staying open longer in the fall -- into September and even October, after the rest of Alaska has shut down -- the Kenai offers a venue for in and out-of-state travelers who want to see fall colors and who aren't ready to trade in their summer camping gear for skis just yet. There are still travelers coming north; and they find welcoming arms in the Kenai Peninsula.

North of Anchorage, the season has also slowly been extending -- from Labor Day to mid-September. And now, finally, it is pushing past the 15th of September, to September 24th and beyond. This is healthy because businesses actually make their profits in very small increments. (Not in massive amounts.) It's the extra 1%, 2% and 3% of your income that comes in, often in September, that pushes a bottom line into profitability.

Staff helps a traveler at the Fairbanks visitor center.
Charity Gadapee, at Explore Fairbanks (which is the Fairbanks Convention & Visitors Bureau) has seen an extension of fall Fairbanks visitors. These include independents and Holland America Princess Tour travelers. Until a few years ago, the Fairbanks tourist season was understood to run from Memorial Day to Labor Day. It gradually extended to September 15th. 

Princess Tours (HAP) is now coming to Fairbanks until the 24th of September, something they've done for the past couple of years. They've extended their Denali hotel season until September 20th. Princess runs a shuttle bus to the Fairbanks Morris Thompson visitor center, so the Morris Thompson Center is keeping its 8 to 9 summer hours going through the 26th of September. Charity said, "As of the 27th we go from 8 to 5." The reason for the longer definition of "summer" in Fairbanks is simple: "We just saw the season extend."

There's definitely a market for late-season travelers. In New England and the Upper Midwest, the fall tourist season is a huge deal, with packages offering tours, hotels and "Fall Foliage" events. So, people from the Lower 48 are used to planning vacations in the fall. In Alaska, fishermen are not ready to put away their tackle. Just as the Kenai has a fantastic fall rainbow fishery, the grayling of Interior Alaska are best in the fall. In September, grayling snap at flies, and fly fishing is the one sport fishery that is truly on the rise in America. 

Interior Alaska also has a hunting season that extends to the 20th of September. This year, the 20th falls on a Saturday. There will be plenty of last-minute hunters. The great thing about this market is that hunters often need a place to stay overnight, and restaurants to eat in. Staying in a familiar lodge, and eating on the road in a local cafe -- one last time for the year -- is an integral part of the Alaska hunting experience.

The train, coming into Denali Park in 2010.

If you can possibly extend your season to September 20th, you have 53 days, starting today, to balance your books and take advantage of the slower paced, more easily satisfied fall traveler. Those extra two weeks can make a huge difference.

Every spring, we talk with business owners who are anxiously awaiting incoming travelers in May and early June. The travel cycle is actually far more likely to expand in September than in May, because of spring school graduations and family commitments. 

With lower volume, Alaskan businesses can cut back on staffing and pay more attention to each traveler. Visitors appreciate this, and business owners and employees enjoy the slower pace and one-on-one interaction. Some places, such as Talkeetna, have gradually inched forward into a later season. Talkeetna is a great place for September travel, with blowing leaves, warm winds, and true insight into the town's personality.

September 23rd in Cooper Landing, Alaska on the Kenai Peninsula. 

And, of course, there's the Kenai. The Cooper Landing experience in September, and even on into October, is friendly and comforting. For example, at the Hutch B&B, it's fun to have a bonfire out in the yard. And, incoming travelers, who are well aware that it's not autumn yet back home, enjoy the fall leaves, the glimpses of Alaska life, and the friendly reception of locals. They feel as if they are on a voyage of discovery, in which they are uncrowded and welcomed. 

An extended fall season may be good for both your business' bottom line, and improving your morale, as you deal with satisfied customers.