Tourism Works

Tourism is a bright spot in the Alaskan economy

The Fairbanks region has grown into a popular year-round destination for guests from the U.S.A. and abroad. With the midnight sun and aurora, quality attractions, robust activities and our Golden Heart hospitality, we’re rocking it!

Watch a short video illustrating why Tourism Works for Fairbanks [2 minutes]

As the Fairbanks tourism industry becomes more robust, the quality of life in our communities improves. Future investments in marketing and developing Fairbanks as a visitor destination pave the way to make our local economy stronger and our lives here better.



Fairbanks grows as a year-round tourism destination

Two indicators – hotel/motel tax collections and airport origin and destination numbers – broke records in 2015, 2016 and 2017, 2018 and then again in 2019. Developing the aurora and winter tourism seasons has strengthened the local Fairbanks region travel industry providing more year-round jobs and economic impact.

Records set in hotel/motel tax collections

For the Fairbanks North Star Borough, including the cities of Fairbanks and North Pole, the total hotel/motel tax collections in 2015 were more than a 5% increase over 2014 and 2016 was nearly a 9% increase over 2015. The year 2016 broke the $5 million mark in collections for the first time. In 2018, collections continued to grow by nearly 6% (5.6%) increase over 2017. And in 2019, the increase was 2%.

2019 Tax collections chart

FNSB Hotel/Motel Tax Collections 2008-2019


Get more information about how tourism works for Fairbanks! 

The latest Tourism Works for Fairbanks document contains more information about how tourism impacts the economy and quality of life in the Fairbanks North Star Borough. Click here to read and download.



Fairbanks Tourism Research At-A-Glance

Summer (May through September) tourism is the backbone of the Fairbanks area*

  • Fairbanks ranks 8th in Alaska with 320,000 visitors 
  • Fairbanks ranks 3rd in overnight visitation following Anchorage and Denali
    • 41% are on cruise land tours
    • 49% travel by air
    • 11% travel by highway/ferry
  • 16% are international travelers, the highest proportion of international travelers in the state with 9% as the average.
  • These visitors in Fairbanks spent an average $391 per person in the community for a total of $125 million in direct expenditures (this figure does not include indirect spending or multipliers)

*Source:  Alaska Visitor Statistics Program, Summer 2016

Winter (October through April) tourism, also known as the “opportunity season,” shows steady growth pre-, during and post-recession*

  • Fairbanks ranks 2nd in Alaska with 19% (50,000) of the total overnight visitors
  • Fairbanks had a 6% gain in vacation/pleasure travelers, the largest gain of vacation/pleasure travelers in Alaska
  • Vacation/pleasure travelers were much more likely to visit the Interior and Fairbanks
  • 93% came by air
  • Fairbanks was the most-visited community among fall/winter international visitors, attracting 64% of the total international market and 100% of the Japanese market
  • Average expenditures per person per trip is $920, with international visitors spending $1,612 and Japanese specifically spending $2,075  
  • These visitors in Fairbanks totaled nearly $43 million in direct expenditures (this figure does not include indirect spending or multipliers)

*Source:  Alaska Visitor Statistics Program, Winter 2011-2012

NOTE: This study is based on primary data from Winter 2011-2012 and, therefore, is grossly out of date. Due to State of Alaska budgetary constraints, the AVSP for Winter has not be conducted since then.

Alaska Visitor Statistics Program is prepared by the McDowell Group for the Alaska Department of Commerce, Community, and Economic Development.

For tourism information from the Alaska Travel Industry Association, go to: http://www.tourismworksforak.org/

"And perhaps our greatest renewable resource is the majesty and allure of Alaska itself which draws nearly 2 million visitors annually. Our tourism industry creates nearly 50,000 jobs and has a direct economic impact of nearly $4 billion annually. This is a healthy and vital industry which showcases a dynamic partnership between private enterprise and state and local government, one that has the potential of limitless growth and contribution to our economic well being."

-Governor Bill Walker,
State of the State Address, Juneau, January 21, 2015


In these challenging times for the State of Alaska budget, tourism is strong. 

“The future offers a few opportunities for Alaska to sustain its economy. The tourism industry will continue to have a bright future as Alaska’s natural beauty will remain with few parallels in the world. This is good news for the hospitality industry.”
  ~ Ashok K. Roy, vice president for finance and administration/chief financial officer for the University System of Alaska (January 2015)

Entrepreneurialism is a hallmark of the tourism industry

All around Interior Alaska are families, friends and neighbors who make their living by hosting highly-esteemed guests to communities from downtown Fairbanks to Chena Hot Springs to Cleary Summit, North Pole to Fox and Ester to Healy. Whether a dog musher or tour operator, restaurateur or store owner, tourism provides unparalleled opportunities for local entrepreneurs. A dream, a business plan and a lot of sweat equity are all keys to their successes.

Tourism business owners, managers and employees demonstrate a passion for showcasing “Alaskan Grown” activities such as the Alaskan lifestyle, Alaska Native culture, live performances, fine arts, products made from locally-harvested goods, or adventures from the Dalton Highway to hot springs. Over the years as winter tourism has grown, some entrepreneurs who originally envisioned a summer business have expanded to showcase winter offerings and others are successful as winter-only businesses. 

Tourism Works - Scott & KoreaTourism contributes to Fairbanksans’ quality of life

The successes of the local tourism industry permeate the fabric of life in the Fairbanks region. Local residents enjoy more benefits because of visitor spending in the community. Cultural activities and things to do, more options in air service and more hotel meetings spaces are just a few of perks of having an influx of guests in the community. Examples abound. Residents savor restaurants and use meeting and banquet spaces. Some publicly-owned facilities, such as Pioneer Park, are supported by tourists’ spending. Visitors’ appreciation of museums, historic sites and other attractions plays a role in helping the community preserve its heritage for future generations. Guests and locals alike value impressive flower displays and are equally awed by ice sculptures in winter.

Tourism operates in a competitive and dynamic marketing environment

Explore Fairbanks works with business partners locally, in the lower 48 and in key markets around the world to lure and bring guests to Fairbanks. As the destination marketing and management organization for the region, Explore Fairbanks plays an active role in developing the local economy. From marketing to infrastructure development, results-driven activities—in tandem with those of tour operators, cruise partners and many small businesses—have contributed to on-going and recent successes.