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Tourist caress of Alaska

What is the most northern state of the United States can offer to a visitor from Russia

Tourist caress of Alaska
Photo: shutterstock
Alaska is becoming more popular with tourists expecting an unusual holiday and ready to invest heavily in it. Traditionally, the state attracted visitors with sea cruises and a large and spectacular Alaska Day. But in the region they do not stop there and are looking for new incentives for newcomers - from "drugs" to demonstrating Indian culture. What has the Russian roots of North America can be of interest to Russian tourists, found out EastRussia.

Alaska authorities hope to break the record for the number of attracted tourists this season - to receive more than 2 million guests against 1,7 million people a year earlier. The main stake is still on the growing cruise tourism: it was on board the ships at the beginning of October that more than a million people visited the state, and the number of ships arriving in Alaska is growing. Against the background of unstable oil prices, tourism development is one of the undisputed drivers for the Alaskan economy, so the authorities are ready to develop and use the tourist advantages of the territory to the maximum. True, the population, as it happens, treats tourists in different ways. In the Aleutian Islands, where tourist services are often a family business, visitors are generously treated to donuts. And in the remote village of Inupiac Point Lay on the northwest coast, they are so worried about the influx of people who want to admire the huge walrus rookery that they launched an active public anti-tourist activity.

Among the large-scale events of the state for tourists in the first place is the National Day of Alaska (Alaska Day), held annually on October 18 in honor of the transfer of the Russian colonies in North America to the sovereignty of the United States. On this day, as it should be on public holidays, government and judicial institutions, schools, libraries and many enterprises are closed. The colorful festival takes place over three days in the former state capital, Sitka.

The main event is a staged ceremony in 1867, which involves lowering the Russian flag from the top of Castle Hill and raising the US flag, accompanied by music. The mayor of the city also makes a speech at the festival, a parade and ball in historical costumes, dance performances and concerts are held, a military ensemble plays. In addition, the festival organizes races and demonstrations of military air and sea forces. Together with the military on the day of the holiday, you can take part in a memorial service at the Sitka national cemetery.

This year, the celebration of Alaska Day turned out to be even more colorful than in previous ones. In addition to the traditional parade, a real beer feast was held within the framework of the festival - local breweries held a tasting of their products on Sitka Totem Square with live music. Cash prizes were awarded to the winners of various competitions, including the competition for the amount of food eaten, the competition for the best historical costume and races in bags. And on the eve of the festival, festivities and performances by art groups took place throughout the city and its environs, most of which were of Russian flavor. For example, the guests of the holiday and local residents were entertained by women in Russian folk costumes and kokoshniks.

In addition, guests of Alaska are invited not only to revel and have fun, but also to enjoy the beautiful. Fairbanks regularly hosts a real "ice show" - an exhibition of creations created on the spot by ice carvers. The local ice is famous for its amazing purity - popularly called the "Arctic diamond". The show turns out to be very spectacular: in the dark, unusual ice scenes and mythical figures created by carvers shimmer and sparkle with multi-colored lights under the night sky of Alaska.

At the same time, Alaska is gradually moving away from the bet on the wealthy tourist and is looking for new methods of attracting guests. For example, the inclusion of tribal and indigenous peoples of Alaska in the state strategy for the development of tourist facilities is being discussed. Foreign tourists are happy to come there even now, for example, in 2014, 1,65 million people visited the places of residence of Alaska Indians - about 5% of all foreign visitors to the United States. The Senate has already approved a bill that will update the Department of Commerce and the Department of the Interior plans and strategies for tourism development by including the territories of Native residents of Alaska and Hawaii. He was supported by American Indians from the Alaska Tourism Association. 

Another innovation, which is still only looking for a place in Alaska, is drug tourism. Now in the US, the legalization of the sale of marijuana is being discussed, and in this regard, the possibility of tourists visiting shops where "weed" is sold and getting acquainted with the process of its cultivation and production. The ban on transportation will remain in place. In some other states of America, soft drugs are not seen as a potential tourist attraction. In the state of Oregon, for example, it is believed that wine tasting is a much greater reason for a tourist to visit a particular territory. Therefore, how popular drug tourism may be in Alaska is still in question.

Member of the Russian Geographical Society Sergey Livshits explains to EastRussia that tourism in the United States is still mainly the rest of the Americans themselves, who make up 80-90% of tourists, and Alaska is no exception. Therefore, local administrations, organizing holidays, do not focus on foreign tourists. "In general, such holidays are staged in the North of the States on a grand scale - they are beautiful and well-organized. And this is not surprising: Americans, attracted by the stunning nature of the Arctic Ocean coast, at the same time are very fond of spectacular events," the expert notes. 

At the same time, very little remains of the Russian heritage in Alaska, which makes this state not very attractive for tourists from Russia, Sergey Livshits admits. "The Russian heritage in Alaska has become so scanty that it can only be seen if one has set such a goal. There is no Russian left in both local life and architecture. We are talking only about the presence in Alaska to some extent of Orthodoxy and a fairly large local the Old Believer community, "says Sergei Livshits. In his opinion, the perception of Russian heritage not only in Alaska, but in America as a whole is complicated by the fact that it is actually ignored by local travel agencies. As an example of this, he cites a fun fact: during a bus tour of San Francisco, the local huge Orthodox church, which houses such a large Orthodox shrine as the relics of St. John of Shanghai and San Francisco, is called a "synagogue" by the guide.

At the same time, the orientation of city administrations in the United States towards a massive influx of visitors on national holidays makes Alaska attractive for Russian tourists these days, says Leonid Smirnyagin, professor at the Department of Socio-Economic Geography of Foreign Countries at the Geography Faculty of Moscow State University. "A striking example is the large-scale festival held annually in Fort Ross, as well as the Alaska Day festival dedicated to the Russian past of this settlement. The whole city is involved in its preparation. Directly during the festival, many of its participants are walking around in Russian clothes, and shots are heard every now and then. from Russian cannons. ”A huge number of people come to it, mainly - immigrants from the USSR”, - notes Leonid Smirnyagin.
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