Independent-travel woes hurt Native corp.'s income

Posted: Tuesday, June 04, 2002

JUNEAU (AP) -- Goldbelt Inc. reported a loss of $4.4 million last year, due in part to a weak independent travel market.

Goldbelt President and Chief Executive Officer Gary Droubay said a sour economy in the Lower 48 last year dampened the market for independent travel, which is more expensive than package trips on major cruise lines.

That caused the Juneau Native corporation's small cruise company, Glacier Bay Tours and Cruises, to suffer, Droubay said.

''Goldbelt products that depend upon (large) cruise ship passengers will do fine and continue to do fine,'' Droubay said. ''But cruise ship passengers don't stay in hotels, are not able to go to the Glacier Bay Lodge or take the Tracy Arm cruise.''

The company's income for the fiscal year 2001, which ended Dec. 31, was $2.6 million. Operating expenses and long-term debt of $3.5 million, combined with depreciation and amortization costs of $3.6 million, produced the net loss.

Goldbelt's loss for fiscal year 2000 was about $3.5 million.

Droubay said it's too early to know how the independent travel market will do this year.

Goldbelt was able to maintain its cash flow by disposing of real estate in Seattle and Anchorage at a substantial gain.

The company has also reduced its corporate expenses by 50 percent and consolidated some of its operations, Droubay said.

The company's holdings include the Goldbelt Hotel, Mount Roberts Tramway, Goldbelt Tours, Glacier Bay Tours and Cruises, Auk Nu Tours and Raven/Eagle Gifts, all in Juneau, and Alaska Cruises in Ketchikan.

Goldbelt also is exploring a partnership with Voyager Holdings, an American-owned maritime investment and holding company created to acquire and construct cruise vessels for U.S. domestic markets.

According to a press release from Glacier Bay Tours and Cruises, Voyager plans to buy and provide to Glacier Bay Tours and Cruises two 200-passenger vessels to operate in Alaska and along the Pacific West Coast.

''It is a key part of our strategy for the next year,'' Droubay said. ''I still can't disclose the details, but it would involve additional capital and strengthen the Glacier Bay operation and really allow it to grow.''

Goldbelt's primary purpose is to manage assets and conduct business for the benefit of its approximately 3,200 Alaska Native shareholders.

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