French Tourists Take the Road Less Traveled When Visiting Alaska

Working in the visitor industry in Ketchikan, Alaska, you meet a lot of people. The majority of visitors arrive by way of one of a few major cruise lines—Holland America, Princess, Celebrity, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian, Carnival, or more recently, Disney. (Royal Caribbean owns Celebrity, and Carnival owns both Holland America and Princess, so there are even fewer major cruise corporations involved.)

A clear majority of visitors to Ketchikan are also North Americans—vast numbers of Americans, many Canadians, and even a fair number of Mexicans. Add to that the large number of British, Australian, and other Anglophone visitors, and there aren't many visitors left who don't either come from the same continent, speak English, or—in most cases—both.

Out of those I haven't listed yet, I would venture to say that most are European. There are plenty of people who visit speaking South Asian or East Asian languages, but I know many of them are Americans, Canadians, or Australians and simply don't speak English within their family. Out of the Europeans, (excluding the British), Germans predominate, although hearing Eastern European languages is fairly common as well.

For me, as a French speaker living in Alaska who'd like to practice his language skills more often, there's just one big question that comes out of all this:

Where are all the French tourists?

After a few years working with visitors in Ketchikan, it seems to me that French tourists tend to take the "road less traveled" when visiting Alaska.

What does this mean? Well, I think French tourists are more likely to eschew large cruise ships and the major cruise lines, opting for alternative vacations instead. I just talked to a group who said they'd taken a kayak trip for a week and then would be moving on to Wrangell. (Most visitors to Southeast Alaska can manage to spend a few hours kayaking, as a shore excursion, and probably don't even hear about Wrangell, a relatively small town with no dock for the largest cruise ships.)

I've met a few other groups of French tourists over the past few years who also used alternative routes to get to Alaska—taking the Alaska Marine Highway, for example, or one of the smaller cruise lines that visits places off the beaten path. There are many other visitors who prefer to avoid the large cruise lines too, of course, but it merely stands out to me that I meet so few French tourists at work, and when I do, they've more often than not chosen a trip different than the typical itinerary.


Please note that this idea is based solely on my limited, anecdotal interactions. Still, I think it's an idea with some merit, and I'd appreciate any thoughts or statistics other people might provide after reading this. How do the French really tend to visit Alaska? Why?