Incentives Fuel

 2010 Alaska Event Market

By Dianne O’Connell

“A regular convention brings an economic impact to the city and/or state of about $700 to $900 per participant into the local economy,”   says Toni Walker, owner of Logistics LLC, a destination management and meeting and event planning company based in Anchorage, with an office also in Seattle. “But a high end, corporate incentive event or program brings in three to four times that amount per person. These companies spend a great deal to provide a unique, high quality, once in a lifetime experience for their top producing employees, important clients, and associates.”

Logistics LLC has eight major “incentive” programs in the planning for this summer.  For one, Brother International, the provider of home and office printers, electronic stationery and sewing machines, is bringing eighty members of their Presidential Club to Alaska for a five-night program at the Alyeska Resort which will include a chartered train and glacier cruise experience, private dinner event at the Alaska Native Heritage Center and many exclusive activities. 

“It’s the top incentive trip they offer in the company and Logistics will be handling all the details from the time they arrive until they depart,” Ms. Walker explains.

Allstate Insurance is sponsoring three different incentive programs in Alaska through Logistics, for a total of 1,600 participants.  Three hundred participants will spend four days at the Alyeska Resort and 600 participants will spend three days at the Resort where they will enjoy a private train charter, private glacier cruise, exclusive hosted activities and dine-arounds that have bought out eight restaurants in the Girdwood and Seward areas.  The 700 person group will then join the 600 participants on a private seven-day Inside Passage Cruise departing from Seward to Vancouver.

“It should be a very good year,” Walker predicts.

“Even years are always better than odd years for some reason,” she continues, “But even so, I’ve been in business for fifteen years and 2009 was the worst year of those fifteen and 2010 is promising to be the best.”

“Companies are not sending their people to overseas destinations right now because of the higher costs, poor exchange rates and the negative perception.  This makes Alaska a very attractive alternate ‘overseas’ destination,” she believes.

When a company contracts with Logistics for an incentive event, the program might include a customized tour, themed parties, a pub crawl, or Alaskan entertainment such as Alaska Native dancers, dog-mushing demonstrations, gold-panning, or can-can girls. Logistics provides such services as advance event registration, hotel accommodations, ground transportation, tour activities and staffing. Participants might go home with such Alaskan gifts as ulus, smoked salmon, or whale bone carvings. Logistics’ services are explained in full on their website:

A girl from the small farming community of Cuba, Illinois, south of Peoria, Logistics’ founder Toni Walker came to Alaska 22 years ago, following her high school sweetheart.  She soon transferred from a community college in Champagne, Illinois, to Alaska Pacific University to complete her degree in business management with emphases in the hotel/food industry and travel and tourism.  She worked for Phillips Cruises and the Anchorage Hilton before striking out on her own fifteen years ago to establish Logistics.  The company is now among the top four event/destination planning companies in the city (the others being Art Services North, Visions, and Alaska Destinations Specialists.)

Walker is active in the community and currently serves on Alaska Travel Industry Association’s Board of Directors, the Alaska Travel Industry Association Marketing Committee, the Anchorage Convention and Visitor’s Bureau Board of Directors, the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center Board of Directors and the Alaska Aviation Heritage Museum.  In addition she serves or has served on several different community committees such as the Visitor Industry Charity Walk, Hospice’s Annual Fundraising Event, Dare to Care, and the Eva Foundation.

Today, the Logistics staff includes Walker, president and owner; Christy Andresen, finance and administrator manager; Mickela Olsen, tour coordinator; Lindsey Durelle, tour and program associate; and Mimi Brothers, tour and program manager.

In addition to the incentive programs, the Logistics staff has successfully coordinated during the past fifteen years hundreds of meetings and events, including destination weddings and receptions, Special Olympics, Summer and Winter Games, Visitor Industry Charity Walk, the Governor’s Health and Safety Council, and Alaska Travel Industry Association’s Annual Convention and Travel Auction to name a few.  Venues that have been utilized have included the Alaska Native Heritage Center, the Alaska Aviation Museum, Crow Creek Mine, Fox Island, various wilderness lodges, as well as the traditional hotel and convention center locations.

“The new Denai’na Civic and Convention Center is absolutely fantastic,” Walker says.  “I’ve traveled all over the world and they definitely understand the client’s needs, provide first class service and offer creative menus and quite surprisingly great food for a convention center. It’s just a great addition for Anchorage.”

The Alaska Aviation Heritage Museum out by Lake Hood is one of the best kept secrets in Anchorage as far as venues go.  “It’s rental fees are quite reasonable and you are allowed to bring in outside caterers for all events. In addition, their staff is absolutely wonderful to work with and always have a can-do, positive attitude,” Walker explains.

The city does need additional event facilities, however.  The Alaska Railroad Depot is no longer running events, in part, because of the costs associated with keeping it open.

“People don’t realize what it costs in staff and maintenance to run a facility.  We are limited in the groups we can accommodate because of the size of the facilities we have.  Most are limited to a maximum 150-person capacity.

Logistics is one of 72 members of Global Event Partners (GEP), a worldwide destination management association which selects its participating partners based on a stringent set of criteria, including financial and insurance requirements, service and performance measurements, safety and risk management standards, and so forth.

This year Global Partners is bringing the 2010 GEP Summit to Alaska and the Alyeska Resort which hosts between 100 and 125 high end meeting and incentive clients, GEP partners and GEP staff to a five-day program that includes two days of one-half day meetings, afternoons showing what Alaska has to offer with activities and offsite events, pre-FAM tour in Anchorage and several post-FAM tours.  

FAM-tours are familiarization trips that bring clients to a destination to host them on a trip and show case products Alaska has to offer, Walker explains.

The Summit is being sponsored by Logistics, the Anchorage Convention and Visitors Center, Alaska Travel Industry Association, Alyeska Resort, CIRI Tourism, Alaska Airlines, Premier Alaska Tours, BAC Limousines, 26 Glacier Cruise, the Alaska Railroad, Kincaid Grill, Tordrillo Mountain Lodge along with numerous other tour companies, entertainers, caterers, hotels, and restaurants. 

“In exchange, we hope to book many clients for future programs to Alaska,” says Walker.

Indeed, and as a result the Alaska event market will continue to thrive.

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