Bear viewing industry boosts regional economy in Alaska

SAN FRANCISCO (Xinhua) – Bear viewing tourism generates about USD34 million annually for south-central Alaska, which is a strong boost to the region’s economy, local media reported last Saturday.

Citing a new study by University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF), KTOO Radio said the bear viewing industry made much contribution to the economy of south-central Alaska as millions of dollars were netted from businesses related to such a thrilling tour, like lodges, air taxis and guides.

“In general we find that remote access bear viewing actually supports quite a bit in terms of economic contribution,” said Joseph Little, a UAF economics professor and co-author of the study.

“We estimate about USD34 million in sales. That would also extend to about USD19 million in value added to the regional economy,” he said.

Bear viewing tours can generate up to 80 per cent of the revenues for many small businesses in the areas of the McNeil River or Katmai, which is an important habitat for thousands of brown bears in southern Alaska, according to the UAF study.

“It’d be very important to a lot of small local businesses in terms of their financial viability,” Little said.

The best bear viewing season in Alaska’s Katmai region normally starts from June through September, said the website of Natural Habitat Adventures, a travel agency in Colorado state.