Goldbelt plans tourism development south fo Juneau

Posted: Monday, October 07, 2002

JUNEAU (AP) -- The Goldbelt Inc. Native corporation plans to build a cruise ship destination at Hobart Bay, 70 miles south of Juneau.

Goldbelt officials say developing its old logging camp into a tourist attraction recognizes the need to cater to independent and cruise line visitors to Southeast Alaska.

Developing Hobart Bay as a tourist destination when its logging operation closed in 1999 seemed a natural step for the corporation, said David Goade, executive vice president for Goldbelt, which has 3,200 shareholders. The essential infrastructure for the logging camp, including roads and the sewer and water systems, is still in place.

''There were no more trees,'' he said. ''But the land itself has value, too, so since we're in the tourism business we thought, 'Why don't we see what we can do to promote tourism there?' ''

The 30,000 acres owned by Goldbelt near Hobart Bay have grown back at an amazing rate, Goade said.

''Even though it's been logged, it's still a beautiful place,'' he said. ''People just don't believe how green it is.''

Goldbelt has been discussing the proposed stop with Royal Caribbean, Holland America and Princess Cruises, as well as some of the smaller cruise companies in Southeast Alaska, Goade said. In December, the company hopes to apply for state tideland leases to build a cruise ship dock.

The proposed wildlife and adventure travel stop would accommodate one cruise ship at a time, offering passengers kayaking, jeep tours, wildlife viewing, guided hikes and cultural presentations, Goade said.

Goldbelt will focus first on the major cruise lines, and will later consider building a lodge for independent travelers and smaller tour operators.

The corporation already has 12 tourism-based subsidiaries including Auk Nu Tours, the Goldbelt Hotel, the Mount Roberts Tramway and Glacier Bay Tours and Cruises.

Earlier this year the corporation reported a loss of $4.4 million in fiscal year 2001 due in part to the weak independent-travel market.

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