AWRTAAlaska Wilderness Recreation and Tourism Association
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Only a few weeks after the AWRTA announcement of its label idea, the concept of "nature tourism" again made the news after the release of a report by the University of Alaska Anchorage (UAA) Institute of Social and Economic Research for the Alaska Conservation Foundation, "The Regional Economy of Southeast Alaska." After the requisite section on cruise ship revenue and major industrial factors of Southeast, researchers included a back section addressing nature-based tourism.
The AWRTA summarizes the challenge on its Web site, describing its mission as "to protect and enhance the quality of life, to provide good jobs and business opportunities, and to create strong incentives for protecting Alaska's wildlife, wilderness and special places." The UAA report puts a public policy spin on it.
Members of AWRTA choose to operate their businesses in a socially and ecologically responsible manner, often leaving their destinations in better condition than when they arrived.
"We even have some bed and breakfasts that we consider ecotourism companies," said Alaska Wilderness Recreation Tourism Association's (AWRTA) President Anne Gore.
AWRTA is a member-led association that represents more than 300 nature-based tourism businesses, individuals and organizations throughout the state and advocates for the sustainability of Alaska's natural and cultural resources.
"Travelers are looking for a different kind of experience than what they wanted 10 years ago," said AWRTA's Gore.
AWRTA sponsored the March ecotourism workshop, and, as president Nancy Lethcoe notes, "What we would like to do now is work with all the different tourism groups to put together a plan for ecotourism in Alaska.
"AWRTA was created in 1991 in an attempt to bring all guides together," says Todd Miner.
AWRTA is a recent descendent of the Alaska Wilderness Guides Association (AWGA).
Not only does the group have a more vocal voice in Alaska's environmental concerns, but insurance becomes available to any business which can afford it, merely by being a member of AWRTA. Obtaining insurance had been difficult for smaller businesses in the past.
Miner concedes that an affiliate of any recognized group with a good reputation will receive credibility and respect, as do AWRTA members.