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Tyonek village tours.

Tyonek Village Tours

THIS YEAR MARKS THE FIRST season that the Village of Tyonek has ventured into the tourism trade, hoping to lure a portion of Alaska's lucrative tourism market. Indian Creek Enterprises, a subsidiary of Tyonek Native Corp., owns the new venture and has worked out an agreement whereby Alaska Village Tours Inc., a subsidiary of Anchorage-based Community Enterprise Development Corp., trains personnel, manages and promotes the tour.

New jobs and added income are two of the benefits that the 400 residents of Tyonek are just beginning to reap. Last June, this small Athabascan village--less than a half-hour's flight west of Anchorage across the Cook Inlet--began hosting day tours designed to explore Athabascan culture firsthand. So far, the tour has piqued the interest of quite a few travelers.

"It's turned out much better than we expected," says Al Goozmer, a director of the Tyonek Native Corp. The corporation expected 45 visitors and attracted more than 100.

Realistically, the market for a tour like this will always be small, says Jim Murphy, director of rural development for Alaska Village Tours. Of the 800,000 visitors to the state, 500,000 come to Anchorage, but only a fraction of those visitors have the time, interest and/or money to take a trip to rural Alaska, he explains.

"To fly to Gambell, for instance, it may cost as much as $800. In comparison, this is a relatively inexpensive tour at $149 for the 1990 tour," Murphy says.

Visitors from June to September were transported from an Anchorage hotel to the airport, where they boarded a small charter aircraft for a 25-minute flightseeing tour en route to Tyonek. There, travelers were greeted by one of three guides and embarked on a tour of the village via a 15-passenger, fourwheel drive van. Sights included the Russian Orthodox church, an abandoned timber mill, a former village site on the beach, and a fish camp and smoke house.

The tour concluded at the Tyonek Tribal Center, where 6 to 10 other employees performed Native dances, joined by several village elders. Murphy describes the dancing at this point as more "educational than professional"--the elders are coaching youths from the village as well as the visitors.

Goozmer reports that plans are under way to get the artistic members of the community active in producing arts and crafts. Local carvers, painters and beadwork artisans involved in preserving the tribal arts are being tapped to produce goods for sale to next year's visitors.

Expansion is also a key to the future, says Goozmer. "Not only are we looking at longer tours covering a larger geographical area," he says, "but we're looking further into developing bed-and-breakfast facilities and guided fishing expeditions."

Though the first season ended on a high note, Murphy advises the village to "project expenses very high, and revenue extremely low." He figures that if five people come to the village the first summer, it's been a success.

Consistency is the toughest challenge so far, says Murphy. It takes hours of planning, organizing and coordinating to maintain the high quality envisioned for the tour. "The whole point of the first year is to get the infrastructure together," he says. First order is to work out the fine points of the tour--from local transportation to selecting points of interest around the village.

Adds Murphy, "Our number one goal this year is to gain credibility in the industry. And I believe it's there."
COPYRIGHT 1989 Alaska Business Publishing Company, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1989 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Native-Owned Enterprises; Tyonek Native Corp., Alaska Village Tours Inc.
Author:Brynko, B.L.
Publication:Alaska Business Monthly
Article Type:company profile
Date:Nov 1, 1989
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