Sunday I saw my first tourist. She was an attractive middle-aged woman walking near the Governor's Mansion. How did I know what she was? Easy, she was dressed to the teeth, heavily tanned, Southern California-style and wearing a Gortex mountaineer's jacket, gloves with a gossamer hair-scarf blowing in the persistent wind.
Monday morning, the early bird conditioning swim, sauna-talk, was about how we are all tourists at heart and the burgeoning tourist industry in this quaint little town. Actually a sort of collective guilt was being openly confessed. Sweating, a little, is healthy!
It is true that we all assume a role of the "ugly tourist" as we travel to our various destinations. The significant difference is, we are only a town of 30,000 souls and roughly matched by as many tourists in just one week's time. This continues for approximately 20 weeks every spring, summer and fall. It is this massive one-point-focus of multi-thousands of tourists that really creates problems in our infinitely finite spaces. Space is limited and so is patience.
This same problem exists in other small foreign ports. I have experienced rather well controlled local resentment by actually becoming an invader myself. Certainly, as one might expect, the large urban centers can better handle such influx.
Yet there is little official recognition of the severity of this situation in our own little town. Simply because it is a real hot, quick, no questions asked, money-maker, for all who are directly involved in the industry.
There is little, if any, really serious talk of putting a cap on the number of cruise ships, but rather all the players concerned seem centered on how can we make it even more attractive for this steadily increasing flow of visitors - like initiating either a project-based or tonnage tax on cruise ships? And will the long-awaited tourism plan realistically address this issue? I and numerous others are cautiously wondering.
Right now there is this GWB-mentality awash in the Good Olde Port of Juneau: "You're either with us or you're against the tourism industry." This narrow attitude requires much broader rethinking.
For instance, a greater encouragement of truly meaningful and sustainable cottage industry. One which utilizes a value added philosophy on our regional resources, and supplants seasonal addiction to the T-shirts and small trinkets trade.
Alan R. Munro