For the first time since 2009, Alaska is poised to welcome over a million cruise visitors to their beautiful state.
The surge in passenger numbers comes, even as Carnival Corporation and Royal Caribbean Cruises reported price increases for their Alaska itineraries. For a while, Alaska cruise tourism was slowing down. Guest numbers have rebounded from a 10-year low of 878,000 in 2010, to a projected 1,014,000 this year.
Cruise companies slashed fares around the world in the late 2000s, to keep their ships full during the worst years of the global recession. In 2010, cruise lines cut capacity by around 14 percent, saying the $50 per-passenger head tax was too much. The tax was reduced in time for the 2011 season, and since then cruise lines have been adding berths to their Alaska cruises nearly every year.
Between May and September of last year, 56 percent of Alaska’s visitors were cruise ship passengers. While the vessels bring air pollution, sewage waste, and crowds, they also bring tax revenue, and money into the local economies which in turn, provides additional jobs.
Juneau sees more ship guests than any other community in Alaska, and saw a 3 percent increase in passengers this year compared to last year.
Since 2009, cruises have grown in popularity around the world, and Alaska is competing on a global scale against tried and true routes in the Caribbean, and new itineraries in Asia and Antarctica.
Alaska has had major cuts to their tourism marketing budget; funding was at $18.7 million in 2013, and stands at $1.5 million for the 2017 fiscal year. “Alaska is riding a wave of strong marketing campaigns from the past few years. This year, with severely reduced dollars for tourism promotion, it will be challenging to keep Alaska top of mind for travelers,” said Sarah Leonard, president and CEO of the Alaska Travel Industry Association.
With all of this being said, there are still some good signs that Alaska tourism will continue its upward swing. Cruise lines are building bigger and better ships, and the Port of Juneau recently installed a new dock that can handle larger vessels. It went into operation this season, and a second is set to be finished for next year.
Information: Alaska Dispatch News