ANCHORAGE - Major cruise ship companies that operate in Alaska have formed a new association aimed at improving relations with Alaskans.
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The Alaska Cruise Association will be headed up by John Binkley, a former state senator and current member of the Alaska Railroad Corp.
"The cruise lines themselves have realized they need better representation in Alaska," Binkley said Monday.
The biggest part of his job, Binkley said, will involve trying to change cruise industry business practices to be more in line with what Alaska communities want.
He will visit cruise ports in Alaska to find out what changes are needed, he said.
Binkley's family operates two popular Fairbanks tourist attractions, a paddlewheel boat river tour and a gold mine tour.
The cruise industry suffered a financial and political blow in August when Alaska voters imposed new measures, including a $50 per passenger tax, environmental monitoring and enforcement of a rule that requires cruise lines to disclose commissions they receive from shore-based tour operators and stores advertised on ships.
Binkley said the vote showed the cruise industry it needed to be a better corporate citizen.
"The cruise lines see this as an evolution of our presence in Alaska," said Adam Goldstein, president of Royal Caribbean International.
Initial funding for the Alaska Cruise Association will come from the eight cruise lines serving Alaska. The Alaska Cruise Association will try to bring local issues to the attention of the large companies.
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