A second port for cruise ships won't get as much emphasis in Juneau's long-range tourism plan as previously thought.
Bob Harvey, a consultant with Egret Communications who is leading work on the city's tourism plan, told Juneau Assembly members Tuesday that new projections from the cruise industry show the need for a second cruise port has declined.
"The cruise lines have two more months of data than we had to deal with on the first of December when we presented the technical report," he said. "Their understanding of what's going to happen to cruise numbers over the next decade is much different now than it was then, and that reflects at how we look at the second port. It will not be there the same way it's there now."
The change in direction on a second port comes after a three-hour meeting Friday between city officials and cruise industry executives in Seattle. While three more cruise ships are expected in Juneau this summer, the industry doesn't expect additional passengers, Mayor Sally Smith said. About the same number of passengers are expected this year as last, she said.
But Chip Thoma, a cruise industry critic who has been involved in long-range plan discussions, said the cruise industry tends to downplay its numbers. He expects an increase in passengers this summer and thinks a second port is needed.
"If a security concern did manifest itself, we'd lose access to the only public dock in Juneau," he said.
Egret Communications will present a draft of the long-range tourism plan to the Assembly on Thursday for consideration. Harvey has been meeting with city staff and community members in Juneau this week about the document.
Generally, the plan will call for managing for cruise and independent travel success, Harvey said. Dealing with downtown congestion and flightseeing noise will be key elements of the document, he said.
"Noise has to be solved to a level of comfort in Juneau for business to move forward on a path to profit," he said.
The goal of Friday's meeting between the city and the cruise line industry was to open lines of communication so problems can be addressed cooperatively, Smith said. That sentiment also was echoed in a letter from the city Smith gave the industry last week.
"Whether a person favors cruise tourism or doesn't favor cruise tourism, the fact is we have cruise tourism and it's very important that we have a working relationship with everyone," she said Tuesday. "And then we can respectfully agree to disagree if there's a disagreement. It doesn't have to be rancorous."
Juneau's tonnage fee for cruise ships also was discussed at the meeting, Smith said. The fee expired at the end of last year and the city and the industry are now in discussions about whether and how to renew it. In November, the Juneau Docks and Harbors Board suggested an approach that would generate $1.5 million in revenue this year. A technical committee is now talking about projects the money could be used for, Smith said.
Assembly member Dale Anderson, who also attended Friday's meeting, said participants emphasized that quality of life in Juneau is related to industry success.
"I think we opened a door that was nearly shut," he said. "Relationships have been strained and now we're back on track."
The public can comment on the tourism plan at 5 p.m. Thursday at Assembly chambers.
Joanna Markell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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