AKontheGO was honored this past week at the Alaska Travel Industry Association annual convention, and while I hesitate to blow my own horn of achievement, I do think the underlying statement of support deserves mention.
After almost 8 years of beating the drum for family travel in this most amazing state, the travel industry is beginning to see the benefit. It recognized me because it recognizes the benefits of embracing the arrival of younger visitors and kids who reside in Alaska, because they matter. They will be the voice for Alaska in the future; they will be the stewards of our land and policies that shape what will happen, and who we will become as a nation and world.
I am grateful. I am humbled. And I am more committed than ever to kids, Alaska, and the value of meaningful travel experiences throughout the 49th state.
The following was written and presented by Elizabeth Hall, CEO of John Hall’s Alaska Tours.
“Alaska has traditionally been known as a bucket list destination people will visit once in their lifetime. Over the past 15 years, the face of Alaska tourism has shifted. More culture seekers, adventure seekers, and most importantly families are visiting us for experiences across the state. As we look around the room this evening, family seems to be an important segment of Alaska tourism, so it only makes sense and is that much more exciting to see the growth in families traveling to our state. Earlier this week in fact, a fellow ATIA member commented on the extraordinary amount of families associated with the Alaska travel industry.
Tonight I am honored to present the Spirit of Alaska award to an individual who has spent her life assuring that visitors and residents alike have a resource for traveling the 49th state with children in tow. As a mother, author on the brink of releasing her second book, and respected journalist, tonight’s award recipient provides all things Alaska ensuring they are family tested and approved.
In 2009, tonight’s recipient launched her website and blog dedicated to Alaska family travel. Her explorations cover ground from Ketchikan to Barrow along with everywhere in between. These adventures have a unique focus on culture, education and recreation showcasing the best of the best our beautiful state has to offer while creating fun and meaningful experiences for families. Traveling with children is a way of life for Alaska residents, and tonight’s recipient has done a phenomenal job in showcasing how Alaska can be enjoyed by visitors and residents of all ages.
Between juggling what seems like a million different hats always with a smile on her face, tonights recipient also has contributed significantly to the community and giving back. This past June, with the support of airport officials, corporate business and individual contributions, she successfully launched a program at the Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport promoting literacy, keeping children busy and learning during the travel process. The program allows for children to choose a book to borrow or take while waiting for flights, during flights or after a long journey. Anyone who has traveled or been around children understands the difficulty in keeping kids entertained in areas such as airports and the simple solution a book has the potential to offer.
- More importantly, tonight’s recipient recognizes staggering statistics:
in 2014, research shows 73% of Alaska 4th grade students are not proficient in reading.
- 64% of Alaska’s young children are not attending preschool programs where the foundation of literacy is formed.
The foundation of reading is a key to success as our next generations grow, enter our workforce and become business leaders of tomorrow.
Tonight’s recipient worked tirelessly to gather books through donations from individuals and organizations. Once books were donated and gathered, books are carefully inspected by a group of volunteers. This allowed for the successful launch of multiple kiosk locations within the airport with plans for addition locations in the future both in Anchorage and around other Alaska airports. I encourage each of you to consider participating by leaving a book on your next trips through the Anchorage airport assisting tonight’s recipient in growing the cause.
To quote Dr. Suess – The more that you read, the more things you will know, the more that you learn, the more places you’ll go. Congratulations to tonight’s award recipient, Erin Kirkland and Read on the Fly. Thank you for your amazing efforts in ensuring visitors and residents to our airport have access to children’s books and being an advocate for children’s literacy. Because of you, more children will have the opportunity have more things to know, learn and go.”