Tourism industry projects increase in Juneau cruise ship visitors

Posted: Thursday, February 05, 2004

JUNEAU (AP) The number of cruise ship passengers visiting Juneau is expected to grow this year, according to the president of the local Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Lorene Palmer, president of the Juneau Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the industry expects about a 9 percent increase in cruise ship visitors.

The North West CruiseShip Associ-ation, whose nine-member cruise lines are the largest that visit the state, expects about 800,000 cruise ship passengers to visit Juneau this summer. Passengers on smaller cruise lines will boost that number to about 850,000, Palmer said.

Most bookings for independent travelers take place in April and May, but national trends show an increase in travel in general, Palmer said.

''We're hoping that Juneau will benefit from those national trends,'' she said.

According to numbers based on airport and ferry terminal surveys, 99,400 independent travelers visited Juneau last summer.

Gerd Krause, general manager of the Westmark Baranof, is optimistic that this year will be better than last for the hotel.

''I don't think it will be a great summer, like we had before Sept. 11 (2001),'' Krause said. ''I don't think we'll recover that fast.''

Tour companies have requested more rooms for groups at the Baranof this summer, but group bookings can change between now and summer, Krause said.

''It's a little bit early to say. ... I think the summer will be better this year than last year, but not much,'' he said.

The North West CruiseShip Associ-ation's lines will send 27 ships to the state this summer, one more than they sent last year, said John Hansen, president of the organization. Those ships will make an expected 462 calls in Juneau.

Though the capacity has increased from last year, the cruise industry in Alaska is not growing as fast as it is in some newer markets.

''Alaska is what I would characterize as a mature market,'' Hansen said.

In the early 1990s, when Alaska cruise travel grew by as much as 14 percent a year, the Alaska market was the only one available for summer cruise ship passengers, he said.

Now Alaska is competing with such destinations as the Caribbean, Mexico, the Eastern seaboard of the United States, Hawaii and Northern Europe.

The demographics of cruise ship passengers to Alaska also is changing, Hansen said. Passengers are younger and more often traveling with families.

Younger travelers are looking for more adventurous shore excursions and Juneau tour operators have obliged in recent years, said Kirby Day, director of shore operations for Princess Tours.

Princess will offer 34 shore excursion options to its passengers in Juneau this year. The company offered about half that number in the early 1990s, Day said.

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