If you've driven on South Franklin Street lately you've likely seen crossing guards in brightly colored rain gear at key locations in the heart of the business district. Tasked with maintaining the safe and orderly flow of traffic and discouraging pedestrians from jaywalking, the crossing guards are a good example of the visitor industry's commitment to minimizing the negative effects of tourism and making the summer experience more enjoyable for visitors and residents alike. This year, the crossing guard program is being administrated jointly by the Tourism Best Management Practices program and the Juneau Convention and Visitors Bureau.
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The new sidewalk on South Franklin Street was another Tourism Best initiative aimed at easing congestion and improving the flow of pedestrian traffic in that busy corridor.
The costs of both the crossing guard program and the new sidewalk are fully paid by cruise ship passenger fees.
Now in its 10th year in Juneau, Tourism Best features a proactive approach to managing the effects of tourism in a manner that addresses both resident and industry concerns, and enhances our visitors' experience in the capital. The program has a Web site where you can learn about the program and its participants and read the revised guidelines for 2006. These include new guidelines to proactively address marine tour operations dealing with whale watching.
Program participants - some 70 tourism businesses and more than 1,600 employees - commit themselves to the principles of responsible and sensitive tour operations by signing on to these voluntary guidelines every year at the beginning of the summer tourist season. The goal is to protect the visitors' experience and the quality of life of Juneau residents without the expense of excessive regulation.
The program cultivates a sense of personal responsibility and accountability among the tourism work force by asking every owner, manager and employee to sign on to the guidelines. And every winter, tourism businesses devote many hours to evaluate their efforts, the community response and overall success. One of the best tools we have to evaluate our success is the Tourism Hotline, (907) 586-6774, and we urge residents who notice what they believe to be an infraction to call the hotline and register a concern.
While we are the first to say that it will never be possible to address every negative effect that occurs in the course of a summer season, Tourism Best has been a cost-effective, proven strategy to deal with the effects that operators can indeed address directly as they occur throughout the season.
And even though our 2006 visitor season will likely not exhibit the robust growth of previous seasons, even with the projected 2 percent increase in visitation, we fully understand how important it is to remain on good terms with our neighbors so Juneau will continue to welcome visitors to our community.
On behalf of all of the program participants and the 20 percent of Juneau's work force employed in the visitor industry, I thank the community for its patience and continued support. We are grateful for the opportunity to share Juneau with visitors and look forward to a wonderful Juneau summer.
Kirby Day is the director of shore operations for the Alaska region of Princess Cruises and Tours.