Despite being widely regarded as one of the most beautiful places in the US, meeting profs generally dismiss Alaska when it comes to planning conferences or incentive trips. The 49th state is stereotyped as a place that is freezing cold with transportation by way of a dog sled. But Alaska is the “wow factor” you have been looking for.
Filled with unparalleled views of glaciers, midnight sun and the opportunity to check something off a whole lot of people’s bucket lists, planning your next event in Alaska is a surefire way to leave a lasting impact that attendees will never forget.
Anchorage is Alaska’s largest city, home to nearly half of the state’s residents and makes an excellent place to meet. The city nicknamed the “air crossroads of the world” is a ten-minute drive from the Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport and is a 9.5-hour flight from almost 90% of the industrialized world, making it an accessible international destination.
William A. Egan Civic & Convention Center has 45,000 sq. ft. of multipurpose space and features a sky bridge that links to the Alaska Center for the Performing Arts. Dena’ina Civic and Convention Center has 200,000 sq. ft. of event space and has technologically advanced audiovisual connections, LCD signage and touch-screen audio and lighting controls.
With more than 135 miles of trails and days with up to 22 hours of functional daylight, the best time to visit Anchorage is during the summer months. Take your team rafting in Alaska’s wild rivers or dine on a catamaran in front of a glacier. On a clear day, you can even see six different mountain ranges from downtown Anchorage and Denali, the tallest mountain in North America.
Where to Stay
- Hilton Anchorage: largest full-service hotel with 24,000 sq. ft. of meeting and function space
- Hotel Captain Cook: only Alaska member of Preferred Hotels and Resorts Worldwide with 14 meeting rooms
- Sheraton Anchorage Hotel & Spa: features an ice spa on top of the hotel and is steps away from the Anchorage Museum
- The Lakefront Anchorage: has an outside green with an excellent view of the lake, perfect for receptions of up to 200 people
Where to Eat
- 49th State Brewing: go for the classic pub-style food, stay for the views and vibrant atmosphere
- Snow City Cafe: best place to go for brunch
- Crow’s Nest: inside Hotel Captain Cook, great for a special occasion with a business casual attire
Fairbanks is Alaska’s second-largest city and has 22 hotels with a total of 3,800 hotel rooms. The Carlson Center has 35,000 sq. ft. of convention center space and has hosted the likes of the Harlem Globetrotters, Elton John and David Copperfield.
This youthful town is home to the University of Alaska and the University of Alaska Museum of the North which can accommodate up to 800 guests for receptions, award ceremonies and dinners. Courtesy of being located in Northern Alaska, the vibrant and famed Northern Lights can be seen from Fairbanks an average of 243 days a year.
Where to Stay
- Sophie Station Suites, Fountainhead Hotels: business-friendly hotel with 148 suites and is ideal for small events of up to 70 guests.
- Westmark Fairbanks Hotel & Conference Center: offers 400 rooms and suites and over 17,000 sq. ft. of conference space with a central location in downtown
- Fairbanks Princess Riverside Lodge: offers complete business services with two full-service meeting rooms and views of the Chena River
Where to Eat
- The Pumphouse Restaurant and Saloon: amazing food and cocktails with an outdoor deck facing the river and a banquet room that can accommodate up to 18 people
- Turtle Club Fairbanks: a fine dining restaurant serving surf and turf in a memorable and lively environment. Can also host special events such as receptions and company dinners.
Cruises had a particularly hard time during the COVID-19 pandemic due to the ease with which disease can spread aboard an enclosed ship. Early into the pandemic, the State Department recommended against cruise travel, but cruises are slowly returning and cruise operators have indicated that 2022 could be a record year for the industry in Alaska. Cruise passengers makeup almost half of the visitors to the state and back in March, operators indicated that there were 1.5 million tourists scheduled for cruise ship sailings throughout the year.
The Incentive Research Foundation (IRF) found that 91% of people find group incentive travel to be ‘extremely’ or ‘very motivating’ and a cruise ship throughout Alaska is the unique destination you need to excite and motivate employees. The IRF found that Cruising rose significantly in rankings of preferred incentive experiences in 2022.
There are two basic routes that an Alaska cruise will take. The inside passage is a round trip that generally departs from Seattle or Vancouver and covers Alaska’s coast. With stops in port towns like Juneau, Skagway and Ketchikan and views of glaciers, this would be an excellent incentive trip. The other cruise route is the cross-gulf of Alaska which adds a land tour to the cruise and disembarks in Whistler or Seward.
Cruise ships are excellent places for meetings and incentive trips as they foster relationship-building, provide one-of-a-kind adventures and sightseeing and are generally all-inclusive which makes life easier for planners in terms of pricing.
Some Alaska Cruise Options
- Carnival Cruise Line
- Norwegian Cruise Line
- Royal Caribbean International