An Alaska helicopter tour company says it's seen a 250% surge in business compared to 2019 as an influx of tourists travel to the state
Alaska Helicopter Toursexperienced a 250% boom in 2021 salescompared to 2019.
- Hiring enough ground staff was the company's biggest challenge during the surge in demand.
The pandemic wrecked the
Anchorage-based Alaska Helicopter Tours is a flightseeing company that flies adventurous customers across the beautiful state, offering aerial views of places like Denali National Park, as well as glacier hiking and dogsled tours.
Like many other companies across the country, the operator was a victim of the coronavirus pandemic, having temporarily lost its allowance to serve tourists. However, it was fortunate to be able to operate as an essential service flying for the local electric company on behalf of its parent organization, Alpha Aviation.
Following strict health and safety protocols as a utility service,
"We could offer something for locals to do to get out of their house," Hanks told Insider. "We were one of the first companies to be up and running and it was really nice to be able to open our doors to local Alaskans."
While the company was able to continue business during the pandemic, which was a rarity for tourism operators, it did not expect a huge
"We thought it was going to be pandemic style with not many employees and not many
Hanks explained that the surge comes from people desperate for a vacation and finally being able to travel again. She said a chunk of their guests were big families, and she believes that the airlines offering deals on flights helped people visit the state at a lower cost.
With the spike in sales came challenges, including finding enough labor and resources to meet demand. Before the pandemic, the company operated a fleet of three helicopters, including two Robinson R44s and one A-Star Helicopter, but had to add one more of each to handle the surge. The company also plans to grow the fleet event more due to the booming 2022 presales.
Though the company's business is growing, Alaska Helicopter Tours is no stranger to the
"Just like everywhere in the US, we could not find people because the hiring pool was very small and a lot of people were on unemployment," she explained. "A lot of Alaska's employees are also J1 [international] students, but they couldn't enter the US, so we did a lot of local advertising and got set up on Indeed."
According to Hanks, finding pilots was not an issue because having "Alaska time" for flight is a big benefit for their resumes.
Going into 2022, Alaska Helicopter Tours is cautious about the new
"Realistically, the 2022 sales will be about 30% above what we did this year," Hanks told Insider.
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