Story last updated at 3:50 p.m. Thursday, May 23, 2002

'Friends' promote Homer
Reinforcing the long-held belief that Homer's reputation is spread widely by personal recommendations, a Homer Chamber of Commerce survey found that 40 percent of visitors last season came as a result of comments from friends or family. Another 9 percent came as a result of "word-of-mouth along other Alaska travels.

Only 11 percent of visitors indicated that advertising brought them here, while 18 percent returned because of prior visits and 21 percent cited "other" reasons.

"We were a little surprised about the number of people who used friends and family," said chamber executive director Derotha Ferraro.

The survey was released recently after analyzing 227 surveys completed by people stopping by the chamber's Visitor Center last summer. Although Ferraro estimates that about 100,000 people visit Homer each season, she said the Visitor Center survey is significant because many Alaskans typically bypass such centers unless they are bringing guests with them.

While the importance of friends and families in the survey was important, a seemly contradictory 84 percent of respondents said they did not have friends or family in Homer.

Those two questions reinforced Ferraro's view of the importance of coordinated promotional weekends that combine business, services and lodging discount programs geared to special weekends such as the recent shorebird festival, Homer Exposure promotions or this coming weekend's kayaking festival.

"That answer is telling us that Wasilla, Anchorage and Fairbanks people are sending their friends and family down to Homer," Ferraro said.

The survey also found that sightseeing, (61 percent) fishing. (39 percent) and wildlife (34 percent) were primary draws.

Of the visitors, 50 percent said they stayed in hotels, 16 percent in recreational vehicles and 14 percent in bed and breakfast inns.