Princess Tours president discusses Alaska tourism

Posted: Sunday, May 04, 2003

JUNEAU (AP) Alaska's tourism industry needs to cater more to an emerging market: Americans who are taking shorter, less expensive vacations, a cruise line executive told a Juneau crowd.

We need to make our products what travelers want,'' Princess Cruise and Tours President Charlie Ball said Thursday at an Alaska Business Roundtable luncheon.

Princess Tours has about $200 million invested in Alaska, Ball said. It has partnered with more than 1,100 Alaska businesses and has focused on marketing Alaska, not a cruise, as the product. The company also has worked with the state to be responsible corporate citizens.

We've prioritized very highly our stewardship of the state,'' he said. At the end of the day, we don't have anything to sell if we spoil it all.''

The cruise industry in general, Princess Tours included, has had several hard years, Ball said. Most companies are trying to digest'' a building spree they began in the late 1990s to increase capacity for their growing customer base.

Though most of the boats that arrive in Alaska are filled to capacity, the cruise packages have been sold at significantly reduced prices, he said.

Part of the problem could be solved, he said, with better marketing. Outside destinations are killing us'' with marketing, he said.

The difficult economic state of the cruise industry is one of the reasons the recent merger of Carnival Corp. and P&O Princess Cruises makes sense, Ball said.

In part, it's the realization that we need to be in a stronger economic position,'' he said.

It is unclear how the merger will affect Alaska businesses that work with the Carnival group, which includes Holland America. But Ball said it likely will not have a huge effect on the number of people employed by the group in Alaska, the Juneau Empire reported.

The consolidation will be most visible in the company's ground operations, such as motor coaches.

You are still going to see two different corporate brands trying to offer two different products,'' Ball said. One priority is not to mess up two existing, successful companies.''

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