Recently, we had the pleasure of hearing from Julie Dodds, Vice President, Convention Sales with Visit Anchorage. Talk about a memorable meeting experience for attendees! What an amazing destination! If you haven’t thought about holding a meeting in Anchorage, now may be the time. From what’s new in her destination to how attendees can expect to get the full Alaska effect during the meeting, Julie shares her passion for the meetings industry and her destination with our team at Destinations International’s empowerMINT.com.
What makes Anchorage a great meeting destination?
JULIE: Anchorage has everything you need for a meeting, but wrapped in Alaska. You get modern convention centers and hotels, plenty of good restaurants, and simple transportation. And on top of all the necessities, you get moose, you get 60 glaciers, you get access to five national parks. Anchorage is really the best of both worlds.
What is the one thing planners are always surprised to learn about the Anchorage area?
JULIE: Alaska is this kind of mythical, larger-than-life place in people’s minds, so planners are often surprised at how easy it is to get to.
Anchorage’s international airport serves about 5 million passengers annually. More than 50 carriers use the airport, including 29 domestic and 18 international airlines. Plus, it’s about 15 minutes from the airport to the convention centers, which is really refreshing for travelers used to a longer drive from an airport to the city center.
What might we find you enjoying in the destination on your day off?
JULIE: Look for me on the river! There’s obviously phenomenal fishing in Alaska. There are five kinds of salmon in Alaska’s waters….although I tend to fish for only three…king (chinook), red (sockeye) and silver (coho). Being out on the river on a crisp fall day with the autumn colors blazing around you is an uplifting and almost spiritual experience.
Think it’s all a fish tale? Ask for my business card. It’s me with a 35 pound king salmon.
What advice would you give to a planner who hasn’t worked with a CVB before?
JULIE: If you’re not working with the CVB, you’re doing it all with a hand tied behind your back. Good CVBs are an extension of the work that a planner does. We want the meeting to run smoothly, and the delegates to have the time of their lives. We have the local expertise, well-established connections, and can save you a lot of time and effort.
What do you see trending in the meeting’s market? How is your CVB proactively addressing this trend or staying current?
JULIE: I think we all try to seek out what’s authentic about the place we are visiting. Nobody wants a cookie cutter experience or a one-size-fits-all approach, and that’s especially true for meeting delegates.
Meeting in Anchorage, you really get a sense of Alaska. Even during the meeting itself, these huge windows show off the surrounding mountains, and the convention centers are filled with Alaska Native art: scenes and objects only found in Alaska. Of course, once things wrap for the day, the trails start a few blocks from the convention centers and hotels, and Denali’s standing on the northern horizon.
That emphasis on local extends to our services as well. Everyone on the team at Visit Anchorage is a lifelong Alaskan, or fell in love on arrival and never left. So we live this stuff, and have for a long time.
How does a planner benefit from consulting with you prior to sending out their RFP?
JULIE: Anchorage has many unique Alaska venues and experiences that a meeting planner may not be aware of. Talking with the staff in our convention sales department often leads to further discussions on how to make the meeting stand out. Like doing the final banquet on one of the glacier and wildlife cruise boats. Dining in front of a glacier and watching whales, sea lions, and otters swim by. Or hosting the opening reception at the Alaska Native Heritage Center, learning more about the history of Alaska’s first people.
What’s the latest news, developments, or events in your destination you’d like to share with planners?
JULIE: There’s been a flurry of activity at our convention centers in the last few years. The Dena’ina Center celebrates 10 years in 2018, and it looks almost as good as the day it opened. There’s been a focus on connectivity in continued improvements and upgrades, the Wi-Fi can handle 4,000 simultaneous users, and speeds up to 1 gig upload and download.
This summer we cut the ribbon on the expansion at the Anchorage Museum. It was already the largest museum in the state, and now the new Alaska gallery and expanded art galleries have opened. It’s one of the best places to gain an understanding of Alaska before exploring more. And it’s within walking distance of the convention centers.
What differentiates your destination from your competitive set?
JULIE: I can’t think of too many places where the residents include moose. Or where a stroll along the coast includes sights of the tallest mountain on the continent. Or where you can stand in front of a huge tidewater glacier in the morning, and eat in the nicest restaurant in town later that same day. This is Alaska! That’s what sets Anchorage apart.
Thank you Julie for talking with us about the amazing destination of Anchorage!