A conversation with Tia Froehle
The travel industry is in Tia Froehle’s blood. Tia followed in the footsteps of her mother—a longtime travel agent who retired from the airline industry. “She gave me my first travel job as a greeter for Sun Country Airlines. From there, I was hooked.”
While earning her Recreation and Hospitality Management degree from University of Idaho, Tia worked her way up from Holland America Line seasonal sales and customer service agent to Anchorage sales and service manager. She then spent three years as senior sales manager for Alyeska Resort before becoming tourism sales manager with Visit Anchorage in 2013.
Anchorage, Tia notes, truly offers the best of both worlds. With equal access to modern amenities and great Alaska wilderness, it’s an ideal jumping-off point for any Alaska vacation and a quick flight from Seattle. You’ll find glaciers, museums, mountains, world-class dining and many, many moose. While adventures abound in every direction by rail, road, air and sea, “visitors can see more of Alaska from Anchorage.”
Alaska is massive. Visitors need a travel consultant to help guide them through countless adventures and opportunities. “Whether navigating the difference between an Inside Passage or northbound cruise, traveling the state independently, or discovering new attractions and activities that are available in Anchorage,” Tia said, “informed independent agents provide incredible value to our visitors.” That’s why the Visit Anchorage Tourism Development and Sales department trains over 5,000 agents yearly, many of them SBN members. “SBN agents sell more than $600 million in leisure travel annually—and we are the perfect destination for them to sell.”
Alaska is an incredible, yet accessible adventure, with many repeat visitors. “Our destination attracts both those looking to check Alaska off their bucket list as well as more adventuresome and independent travelers. Alaska’s average visitor age is declining, at about 51.5 years old in Anchorage and trending younger each year.”
In 2015, Anchorage surpassed 1 million leisure visitors for the first time. With added service by carriers such as Alaska Airlines, JetBlue and Delta Airlines and an exciting array of mild to wild adventure offerings, Tia doesn’t foresee that growth slowing anytime soon.
SBN members can discover Anchorage and Southcentral Alaska and become an Anchorage Wild Expert (AWE) with Visit Anchorage’s convenient online destination training programs, enhancing their credibility with clients and increasing their Alaska sales. “There’s so much to learn about Southcentral Alaska’s awesome adventures, spectacular scenery, abundant wildlife and pristine wilderness, which continues to attract domestic and international travelers,” Tia said.
“Besides, it’s fun and you get to add ‘AWE’ after your name.”
Also fun—and informative—will be SBN Annual Conference 2017. In addition to several exciting networking and evening events, Visit Anchorage is working with SBN on an agenda that lets delegates get out and experience more of their host city.
The conference accommodation of choice is The Hotel Captain Cook, an Anchorage landmark. Built by Wally Hickel as Anchorage rebounded from the 1964 earthquake, it’s still family-owned. “The hotel definitely lets you know you are in Alaska,” Tia said. “The décor is luxe and features murals taken from the voyages of Captain Cook, the first European to explore our part of Alaska.” Views of Mount Susitna—known to locals as The Sleeping Lady, Cook Inlet, the city, and even Denali from rooms and restaurants in the hotel are other scenic reminders of a special setting.
Anchorage has many small business members interested in participating in the SBN Annual Conference. “Everyone from our local receptive tour operators and transportation providers to photography, flightseeing, city and brewery tours is looking forward to showcasing Anchorage,” Tia said.
Visit Anchorage has partnered with SBN for over six successful years. Each year, the partnership with the agents and the association grows stronger—which explains what Tia enjoys about SBN and its members.
“They are sellers! When they come and experience a destination, you will see the returns!”
All Alaska travel businesses value the partnership and support provided by independent agents, especially the smaller, more off-the-beaten-path companies. While they may be outside of the packaged cruise line itinerary, they offer added value to agent and client through authentic experiences and competitive commissions.
Big things are happening, too. In 2017, Seabourn Sojourn will sail between Vancouver and Seward for the first time to Alaska. Holland America Line’s Eurodam will make its first voyages through the Inside Passage. Royal Caribbean’s Explorer of the Seas will return for its second season as the largest ship operating in Alaska.
One of the most frequent questions asked of Visit Anchorage is, “When is the best time to visit?” With so much diversity from season to season, the answer depends on the client’s vision of their dream Alaska vacation. Visit Anchorage is seeing its partners extend summer seasons to accommodate spring and fall experiences at shoulder season rates. “Excitement for aurora viewing, dog sledding and other winter-only activities are really turning on our ‘off season.’ Alaska is open year-round and we want to prepare agents to see—and sell—beyond just the cruise season.”
“We obviously love sharing Anchorage and Southcentral Alaska with visitors, but we are particularly excited to share our community with travel industry friends!” said Julie Saupe, Visit Anchorage president and CEO. “We love to see Anchorage through the eyes of the travel professional as we share the activities and attractions that are special and unique. We also know that Anchorage will spark the creativity and imagination of SBN agents and may result in fresh perspectives on itineraries and product for us, looking into the future.
“There’s no question that this conference will develop many ‘wins’ for Anchorage and the agents attending.”
Written by Amy L Charles.
Photo courtesy of Deb Knoske.