CIRI tourism subsidiary invests in Seward

Although CIRI Alaska Tourism Corp. (CATC) is preparing for an anticipated reduction in Alaska visitor traffic in 2009 due to the economic recession, it has not stopped investing in the Alaska communities it operates in. One such community is Seward, Alaska, the port town on the south side of the Kenai Peninsula.

The CATC-owned 180-room SewardWindsong Lodge is currently constructing a new conference room. The room is approximately 1500 square feet and has a capacity of about 50 people. This construction follows the addition of 36 rooms to the lodge last year, and another addition the prior year. Even with the expansions, the lodge consistently maintains high occupancy levels, increasing the number of visitors that stay in Seward, not just pass through.
CATC hired a local general contracting company, Harmon Construction Inc., to build the conference room.

“We’re proud to support local business,” said Luke Peroni, assistant general manager of the lodge. “Those are winter jobs, which are not easy to come by in Seward.”

CATC subsidiary Kenai Fjords Tours (KFT), which offers marine day cruises in nearby Kenai Fjords National Park, is based in Seward. KFT had a record year in 2008, carrying more than 100,000 passengers. These passengers began and ended their cruises in Seward, providing a boost to the local economy.

KFT is putting into service a second catamaran this month, the Orca Voyager. The first catamaran, the Aialik Voyager, was brought online the previous season. It has helped KFT cope with rising fuel costs, as it uses 43 percent less fuel than the older monohull boats in KFT’s fleet.

CATC is also building a two-story bunkhouse in Seward to house Kenai Fjords Tours’ seasonal employees. Housing in Seward is expensive; the bunkhouse will provide a stable housing location for the many Alaskans and others who work at Kenai Fjords Tours in the summer. The bunkhouse is within walking distance of the port and is being constructed by local company Harmon Construction. The bunkhouse can house 36 employees, and is already full for the 2009 season.