This editorial appeared in the Anchorage Daily News:
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The cruise lines that bring almost a million tourists to Alaska each summer got thumped on the head pretty good last August when voters passed a wide-ranging citizens' initiative imposing several new taxes and environmental regulations on the industry.
It now looks like the industry has learned it's better to work out problems and improve community relations ahead of time than to wait for another ballot initiative.
The companies have gotten together and formed an Anchorage-based association to work with Alaskans. The Alaska Cruise Association will include the major cruise operators, plus tourism-based companies from around the state. No more relying on the North West CruiseShip Association out of Vancouver, British Columbia, to figure out what Alaska communities want and need.
And the new group has hired a man with impressive credentials to run the operation. John Binkley has served as a state senator from Bethel, has operated a Fairbanks riverboat business and serves on the Alaska Railroad board of directors. He knows tourism, the state and its communities.
The association will look for what Alaskans want from the industry, what the cruise lines can do to meet those wants and whether there are solutions that work for all parties. Mr. Binkley acknowledges that last year's vote showed the industry it needs to be a better corporate citizen.
It looks to be a good effort, one that is long overdue. Let's hope this Alaska-based group responds well with communities. And then maybe it can work with legislators to fix some of the problems in last year's tax and regulation initiative.