I have been in the restaurant business in Anchorage for 25 years. I have been on the boards of the Anchorage Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Anchorage Downtown Partnership and other groups. I am concerned about the devastating effects of Ballot Measure 2 on the future of our visitor industry and Alaska businesses.
Ballot Measure 2 could force most cruise visitors to pay up to $65 in passenger taxes, not $50, since both Ketchikan and Juneau have their own head taxes that could still remain in place. Ballot Measure 2 is about local businesses across Alaska and the thousands of Alaska residents we employ and support.
In a national survey of 1,200 people who had expressed a serious interest in visiting Alaska, 48 percent of those surveyed said they would reconsider coming to Alaska if a head tax were passed. There are other cruise choices that are less expensive, such as Hawaii and Mexico. These venues are growing at a rate of 30-plus percent annually; Alaska is growing at 3 percent. This should concern all Alaskans.
For those who would still visit, 45 percent said they would not add a trip to the Interior. That means the Interior could lose 70,000 visitors in one summer alone, which would be devastating to their local businesses and communities. A lack of these trips will affect Kodiak, Fairbanks, Kenai, Homer, Anchorage, Denali, Talkeetna, etc. Do we want this?
Another 28 percent said they would cut or reduce spending with our local businesses that provide sightseeing, fishing and rafting trips. That would mean a potential loss of over 200,000 adventure trips that those local businesses depend upon. Welcome to the party, Juneau and Southeast Alaska.
These were qualified travelers in the process of booking their trip. They’re on a budget and do consider an additional $200 for their family of four a very big cost that will not only affect their decision to come to Alaska but will curb their spending if they do come.
A recent article pointed out that the average visitor to Alaska spends $1,200. If 10 percent of the visitors didn’t come to Alaska, that would mean 100,000 fewer visitors. That would mean the loss of $120 million in spending! How does a $120 million loss in revenue to small Alaska business help our economy?
The industry pays its own way, as do the local visitor-industry businesses. Businesses and tourists paid almost $43 million in local taxes and port fees last year alone. The industry has spent $28 million on capital port projects and they spend more than $150 million with Alaska businesses through the direct purchase of goods and services each year. They also contribute $2 million to the Alaska Travel Industry Association and spend $70 million on marketing Alaska, which helps all Alaska business.
According to Gershon Cohen, the measure’s co-author, Measure 2 will have zero impact. Where does Mr. Cohen get his figure of zero? Mr. Cohen is not in the visitor industry. He has no research to support his position and has no personal risk if we lose business. I work on facts, and the facts say differently. There will be an impact.
Our coalition consists of hundreds of local businesses, Native organizations, chambers, cities and visitors bureaus, all of which oppose Measure 2 because it is bad for Alaska. Measure 2 will hurt Alaskans. It will hurt our communities, businesses and employees.
Please join me and vote no on Ballot Measure 2.
Chris Anderson owns two restaurants in downtown Anchorage.
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