By: Scott McMurren
There’s a saying in Alaska: “We’ve got two seasons here: nine months of winter and three months of construction.”
That’s certainly true this summer … and not just because of road construction (it’s a THING, to be sure). Travelers all over the state will see delays and cancellations all summer, which may disrupt their plans. Trips will be cancelled. Departures will be changed. Lines will be longer. Businesses will be closed.
There are not enough people working to accommodate the increasing number of travelers who want to visit Alaska this summer.
— Airlines have been canceling flights. Both Alaska Airlines and Delta Air have had cancellations due to crew and pilot shortages. Hours-long waits for phone support are common.
— Hotels have closed. The Copper River Princess Lodge, near Copper Center, is closing next week because they do not have enough staff. Princess’ lodges at Denali Park will no longer accept hotel-only reservations.
— Advertised tours are cancelled. ARAMARK, which operates Denali Park Villages near the entrance to the park, has canceled its raft trips on the Nenana River because they don’t have the staff to work the trips.
— Restaurants are cutting menu options, closing for breakfast or closing on certain days.
There are many reasons for the diminished workforce. Some operators are having more success filling positions. But the issues are pervasive, and it means that all operators in all locations are affected to some extent.
What can we do?
Be patient. Last week, while traveling back to Alaska from Frankfurt on Condor, our flight was delayed by an hour. On arrival in Anchorage, the customs/immigration line was huge, even though there was just one flight. The Global Entry process wasn’t working. Then the bags took f-o-r-e-v-e-r to arrive.
One of my travel gurus, Chris Guillebeau, has traveled to every country in the world. Every single one. He said the most important lesson he’s learned through all of his travels is this: learn to wait.
In situations like this, there often is nothing to do but wait. And be kind. The folks who do show up for work are doing more than usual, because of staffing shortages. Give them a break. Be kind.
Remember: Many people still are suffering as a result of our two-year shutdown. More than one million Americans died because of COVID and millions more still are suffering from long COVID, for which there is no treatment.
The collective grief from this massive toll is palpable. And it manifests itself in different ways for different people. Our friends, our neighbors and yes, your hosts here in Alaska, have lost parents, grandparents, siblings and children. Have a heart.
Be grateful. What a wonderful opportunity it is to travel. Ponder the miracle of modern air travel, of instantaneous communication and the opportunity to enjoy nature on a grand scale. Sorry if this sounds a little corny but the whole “attitude of gratitude” thing works, imho.
Please accept our invitation to see Alaska this summer. Whether you’re visiting from afar or you’re getting out to see a new part of the state, you’ll meet people who want to share our little slice of paradise and it will be great.
But remember: Most, if not all of us, have lost a piece of our heart in the past two years. Loved ones have died. Lives have been upended. Promises have been broken. It takes time to heal and things may never be “normal” again.
All together now: Let’s walk gently on the earth as we enjoy the majesty of creation this summer.
AUTHOR BIO: Scott McMurren publishes the Alaska TourSaver travel discount book. It offers more than $12,000 in travel savings on trains, cruises, flightseeing, tours, accommodations and attractions throughout the state. There’s a $50 off sale right now for the “legacy” printed booklet. Coupon code: SAVE50 For more savings, get the Alaska TourSaver smartphone app, which features a 25 percent discount on Alaska Airlines for up to four people. McMurren also publishes the Alaska Travelgram email travel newsletter, where this article first appeared.