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Juneau bids farewell to 2012 cruise season

Posted: September 27, 2012 - 12:07am

The final cruise ship of the 2012 season left Juneau Wednesday night taking with it the last of an estimated 920,000 visitors to disembark at Juneau’s port.

John Binkley president of Alaska Cruise Association said in a phone interview that 2012 cruise season went well.

“There were more ships and more passengers visiting Alaska on cruise ships this year,” Binkley said. “We appreciate all they spent.”

And although Juneau experienced record-breaking cold and rainy weather this summer, Brinkley did not see that having a big affect on visitor numbers.

“Most cruise travelers plan trips well in advance,” he explained. “Weather [will} affect how much passengers spend in port and also flight seeing and helicopter tours. There is some disappointment to have that number of people and not get them out on tours, the high-end high dollar attractions.”

Binkley said he didn’t think visitors would let the weather skew their stories when they got back home. The satisfaction rate in Alaska is fairly high, he said, and weather varies around the state.

Binkley anticipates 2013 to be better than 2012 with passenger counts expected to hit a million. He said this increase in business will be driven by an additional cruise ship scheduled to travel Alaska waters, through Southeast and across the Gulf of Alaska. The cruise industry has set its 2013 schedule and is now finalizing 2014 schedules, typically released in February or March.

Around 920,000 cruise passengers crossed the dock in Juneau, Carl Uchytil City and Borough of Juneau Docks and Harbors port director, said. This number was close to the cruise industry’s pre-season estimate of 930,000.

A recent McDowell Group study on cruise industry impacts estimates per passenger spending of about $200 per passenger for a total of $180 million spent in Juneau over the summer.

“About a quarter of all sales tax collected” in Juneau, Uchytil said.

The cruise industry is important for CBJ’s coffers as well as job creation, Uchytil said. About 2,700 workers are employed due to cruise ships in town, he said.

On top of consumer spending, passengers also add to Juneau development through marine passenger fees, $13 a head. The result is about $12 million total for port development and to offset some of the additional burden of welcoming to town a million guests.

A part of the marine passenger fees built Juneau’s new visitor center, port customs building and a new Welcome to Juneau sign.

“The visitors center has been a huge success,” Uchytil said. “People seem to like its funky lines and the colors. I think the artwork turned out well to support it.”

People also said Juneau’s new welcome sign went over well with visitors and locals alike, Uchytil said. He told a story about a wedding party that asked the workers erecting the new sign to step out of the way so they could get a picture beside it.

• Contact reporter Russell Stigall at 523-2276 or at russell.stigall@juneauempirecom.

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