Do you recall the tourism boycott of Alaska in 1992 that animal rights activists initiated to protest our state’s wolf control program?  One clever Alaskan produced a T shirt to counter the boycott featuring a masked man holding a wolf with a gun pointed in its mouth and the caption, “Visit Alaska or the wolf gets it.”

Today we have a bigger threat to our state and local economy thanks to a more invisible enemy, the coronavirus.

Alaskans should be proud of how this state has dealt with the COVID-19 crisis.

We have roughly half the reported cases of Wyoming, a state with a smaller population than Alaska.  Alaska has reported less than a dozen deaths due to virus to date, about one-fifth the total of North Dakota, another state with around 700,000 residents.  To put that in perspective, Alaska recently had six homicides in seven days.

Alaskans have been dealing with this virus responsibly for the most part and as a rule been following the governor’s mandates and restrictions to ensure that this enemy does not take over our communities as it has in so much of the rest of the country.

So what’s the flip side? It’s been very difficult for most businesses financially since this pandemic kicked in back in the first quarter of 2020. And this summer is going to be especially devastating for the tourism industry, many local restaurants, and other businesses that rely on “business as usual” — which is almost a term that has lost its bearings.

So here’s a novel idea. This summer, visit Alaska! Go to a town you’ve never been to, or do something locally that you’ve never considered in the past. Spend your time and money having fun locally or at least in state, and blow off that trip out of state that you normally make, whether to a football game, to see relatives, or just to get out of town for a break. There are plenty of choices when it comes to recreating, eating out, having fun with friends and family, all the while supporting the local and state economy that desperately needs a financial boost. Go on a fishing charter. Hike the Chilcoot Pass. Try five local restaurants you’ve never been to that your friends have suggested. Rent a motorhome and see part of Alaska you’ve always talked about but never followed through with. Buy a new BBQ. Go white water rafting.

Consider the local purchase of a new car, truck, ATV or go salmon shark fishing in Valdez, clamming, or dip netting for the first time. Plan a caribou hunt for August, fill your oil tank, get that overdue dental work done, get a massage, a haircut, or a tune up for the wife’s car. You get the drift. The important thing is, if you can, to generously support local businesses that employ local folks and keep this economy afloat not just in the summer but 12 months a year. Supporting good local agencies that feed Alaskans that need food is just another way to help support Alaskans during these tough times.

There is no doubt that most of us have had our share of couch dwelling and Nexflix over the past three months.

By supporting local businesses with your local dollars, you help them tremendously during a very difficult time and you help ensure their future success. So come on Fairbanks. We can all enjoy this great state safely and responsibly, and still have a lot of fun at the same time.

So visit Alaska. Or the economy gets it.

Craig Compeau is the owner of Compeau’s in Fairbanks, a 75-year-old, four-generation marine and powersports business.