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Joint venture between Doyon and Huna Totem invests in Juneau tour bus company

Two Alaska Native Corporations have joined up to form a new business, and its first move is investing in a Juneau-based tour bus company.

The new joint venture is between a huge regional Alaska Native corporation from the Interior and a smaller Southeast village corporation. Doyon, Ltd. is Alaska’s largest private landholder and a major force in Denali tourism. Early this year, Doyon joined with Huna Totem, owners of a successful cruise destination at Icy Strait Point.

The venture is called Na-Dena’. Doyon president and CEO Aaron Schutt says its aim is to fill some gaps in tourism infrastructure statewide.

“There’s an opportunity to bring more people to Alaska and to give them a better experience,” Schutt said.

Schutt says transportation, lodging and visitor experience are all areas where the new joint venture can grow.

They’re starting with transportation. Na-Dena’ has acquired an 80% majority share in Alaska Coach Tours, a Juneau-headquartered company they think can expand statewide.

“It’s not like we’re just buying a bunch of buses from somebody. They have a good team providing a very good product to the same customers we already serve,” Schutt said.

Dennis McDonnell started Alaska Coach Tours in 2004. He said he wasn’t necessarily looking to sell his company, but he saw opportunities for growth that could come from new capital. He said the new partnership’s goals were in line with his company’s ethos of telling real Alaska history to visitors.

“What better situation, to have two very well respected Native corporations join forces with an Alaskan employee-owned company,” McDonnell said. “I just got really excited about what the potential was.”

It’s a big investment after two years of extreme economic downturn in the tourism industry due to the pandemic. Mickey Richardson, who runs marketing for Huna Totem Corporation, says the lull gave them time to start the new company.

“We have time to develop and to think further into the future and not be so wrapped up with our day to day operations,” Richardson said.

Southeast residents won’t see any major changes to Alaska Coach Tours this season — except that McDonnell expects his tours to be fully operational for the first time since before the pandemic.

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