Signs point to strong tourist season, but some fishing charters say they’ve lost business


Summer is drawing to a close and Homer’s seasonal stores are closing. Signs point to a strong summer season for tourism-related businesses, but fishing charters say they have seen better.

Indira Mukambetova owns Better Sweater clothing store and Spit Licks ice cream shop on the Homer pin. This year, it is closing earlier than usual.

“It was awesome,” she said. “I sold almost everything.”

It is difficult to say for sure whether Mukambetova’s successful season was the common experience of other business owners. Data on the income of tourism-related industries during the peak summer season on the Kenai Peninsula is not yet available.

But there are a few clues as to how this summer compares to previous years. Jan Knutson manages the visit side of the Chamber of Commerce and Homer’s Visitor Center. She said the number of visitors coming to the center from May to August has increased. Last year, that number was around 10,500.

“So we see close to a thousand more who have just arrived here,” she said. “Some days we had over a hundred – the highest was 212 visitors who physically entered.”

Knutson says she has seen a steady increase in the number of tourists since she started working at the chamber four years ago.

“Homer was truly discovered as a travel destination,” she said. “Last year, Alaska Business Monthly selected three communities as the best travel destination. Homer was number one.

Knutson adds that more and more people are booking destination weddings for Homer. The chamber added Homer’s marketing as a destination wedding to a long list of marketing campaigns last October. Reality TV shows, such as Alaska: The Last Frontier, are also drawing more people to the region.

And more and more tourists come here by motorhome.

“There was a point in mid-June when every RV park here in Homer was full,” Knutson said.

Knutson said it was also a banner year for bear watching in the Homer area. This is consistent with the findings of the Kenai Peninsula Tourism Marketing Council on visitor activities. Summer Lazenby is the executive director of the council and she has said that wildlife viewing is the most popular activity on the peninsula.

“It would include bear watching, whale watching tours,” she said. “This would include the caribou which are often just outside of Kenai.”

Lazebeny said she was pleasantly surprised that tax revenue from tourism-related industries in April-June increased by around 3% compared to the same period last year in both Homer and the Borough. of the Kenai Peninsula as a whole.

Lazenby says those numbers would generally indicate a similar increase in sales tax revenue in July-September. But this year’s poor fishing season makes it uncertain. It has been a particularly bad season in the Kenai area.

Still, many fishing charters in the Homer region say this season fell behind last summer. Bob’s Trophy Charters owner Todd Strand said wet weather and fishing regulations were hurting his business.

“Unfortunately in July and the first two weeks of August we weren’t able to fish for halibut on Tuesdays or Wednesdays and that just has a really big impact on our business,” he said. .

This year there were a few more days that charters were unable to fish for halibut compared to last year. Those days they would go out for rockfish or salmon. But it was not ideal.

“I would say the majority of people that come to Homer, they want to go fishing and they want to go out and catch a halibut,” he said.

Strand is already reserving for next year and is hoping for a better fishing season and lighter regulations.


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