Economic Analysis of Whale Watching Tourism in Alaska
Analysis of the economic impacts of the state’s whale watching industry
NOAA Fisheries contracted with McDowell Group, an Alaska research and consulting firm, to assess the economic impacts of the state’s whale watching industry, which has been experiencing unprecedented growth in recent years. This report estimates economic impacts for the year 2019, specifically from commercial whale watching by non-residents in coastal waters between Ketchikan and Unalaska.
The study team relied on a wide variety of information sources, primarily interviews with 58 whale watching businesses, marine-based wildlife tour operators, and charter sportfishing businesses in 14 coastal Alaska communities. The study also drew on visitor industry reports and data including the Alaska Visitor Statistics Program and associated traffic reports. Economic impact modeling was conducted with IMPLAN, a commonly used econometric modeling tool. Following are key findings of the study.