The Assembly recently appointed a Visitor Industry Task Force to try and get some advice on how to proceed with the touchy issue of tourism grown. There are many valid community perspectives on cruise ship tourism and they range from reducing the current visitation (and maybe having a day a week with no ships) to embracing the growth and building new facilities to accommodate increased numbers. Skagway and Ketchikan are working through similar issues and Hoonah is projected to get over 400,000 visitors next year!
The rapid growth in tourist visitation again makes the management of this industry front and center to the CBJ. In many ways, the three-year litigation over the imposition and expenditure of fees stifled communication between CBJ and the industry and stifled development of new ideas on the management of tourism. Meanwhile, cruise ship passengers have voted Juneau the best port visit in Alaska and even more ships want to come. At what point is tourism too much of a good thing? What level of visitation is healthy for our town?
Over the last fifteen years, we have doggedly stuck to and pursued the implementation of our Long Range Waterfront Plan, watched as tour operators police themselves (quite effectively) through the non-CBJ TBMP program and have allowed the industry to schedule the use of our public docks. Are these approaches adequate?
There are many questions before the taskforce, and ultimately their job is to advise the Assembly on how to proceed on this potentially divisive issue. My counsel is consistent – go slow, don’t polarize, find areas of agreement. Let’s be a model of good open government!