KETCHIKAN - More than 560,000 cruise ship passengers stopped in Ketchikan last year, but city officials worry the trend won't last.
``We can easily be replaced,'' said Patti Mackey, executive director of the Ketchikan Visitors Bureau. ``There are Native culture opportunities in other communities, there is excellent wildlife viewing in other communities, and there is great sport fishing in other communities.''
Ketchikan's year 2000 cruise-ship season is scheduled to begin with the arrival of the Spirit of Glacier Bay on April 11. Thirty-eight cruise line vessels are scheduled to stop in Ketchikan during the six-month tourist season. That means 461 total stops and approximately 550,000 visitors.
Four new cruise ships are scheduled to stop in Ketchikan this summer, said Mackey. Those vessels are Holland America Line's Volendam, Princess Cruise Line's Ocean Princess, Radisson Seven Seas Cruises' Seven Seas Navigator and Norwegian Cruise Line's Norwegian Sky. In addition, four cruise ships are going to spend less time in Juneau to spend a full day in Ketchikan.
But Prince Rupert, British Columbia, which is targeting the smaller cruise ships, could compete with Ketchikan if the Canadian city decided to go after the larger vessels, Mackey said.
The Ketchikan Visitors Bureau also is attempting to lure independent travelers. Mackey said the Alaska Marine Highway is not living up to its potential in Southeast Alaska because of poor marketing and funding problems.
``There are lots and lots of travelers on those ferries each year, and a lot of them are staying on board from the time they get on in Bellingham, (Wash.), or Prince Rupert and they're going straight to Haines and driving off to other parts of the state,'' she said.
Travelers don't take the time to visit or stay overnight because they would have to purchase another pass to get back on the ferry, Mackey said.
Mackey said the visitors bureau has requested the Legislature consider stop-over fares, which would allow travelers to spend time in other Southeast communities without paying extra fees.
No action has been taken on the idea.