Carnival Cruise Line's decision to cease port calls at Valdez may have been made with the best intention of its passengers at heart, but it is indicative of a larger shift in how and why tourists spend their dollars. The cruise ship industry has been hard hit as of late. As an industry, it finds itself the subject of watchful eyes by environmentalists, government agencies and a skeptical public. Throughout the nation, once popular destinations have seen the number of cruise ships decline. The industry has reported that the decline is the result of the sudden downturn in tourism after Sept. 11. Valdez itself has seen a significant cut in the number of ships both before Sept. 11 and after.
The reasons for cutting some ports and adding others may be based on passenger feedback, as is the case in Valdez, the expense of docking or the sites distance from other ports of call. The reasons themselves become unimportant when the reality sets in that it is highly unlikely that cruise ships will once again return to the abandoned ports any time soon.
In the case of Valdez, Carnival said its passengers don't like the city. Of course its media relations people didn't say it that way, but that statement is the crux of its decision to change.
Carnival's belief about the value of Valdez as a port of call is the best news the city could hear. Cruising the ocean on a large ship along with hundreds of other tourists is loosing its attraction to the main staple of American tourists. Today's tourist seeks adventure, enlightenment and relaxation through achievement. In short, those who travel for sake of traveling are themselves looking for more than a cruise ship can offer.
Alyeska Resorts recently became the venue for the U.S. Alpine Championship. Matt White of Heli Camps, located here in Valdez, recently expanded his operation to include summer-adventure tours. Prince William Sound Community College is preparing to host the Last Frontier Theater Conference for the tenth year.
The adventure industry here in Valdez is thriving. These events indicate where tourist dollars will be spent in the future. The city of Valdez and its business community must continue to develop a plan to reach out to this brand of tourist. It's where the money lies in the future. ------
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