A tourism master plan with some real promise

Posted: Sunday, June 17, 2001

Oh sure, you're thinking, yet another master plan destined to collect dust after months of public hearings, hard work and expense. Before you summarily pass this one off as more of the same, take a moment to consider the merits of what the City and Borough of Juneau envisions for its, or rather our, Tourism Management Plan.

First and foremost, many master plans fail to produce results because they don't build enough momentum or support to sustain them to the all-important results stage. Merely designing a plan with clear objectives and solid reasoning will not insure success without strong consensus. Strong consensus can only be achieved through openness and easy, two-way communication across the broadest local population base possible.

A common criticism of the public process is that the usual hearings tend to draw out the loudest voices on either extreme of the issue at hand while the majority of people stay home and are not heard. There are many obvious reasons why people choose to avoid public hearings. Unfortunately, the committees and governmental officials are left to create and administer policy based on the input of the few who diligently show up to offer testimony.

Mayor Sally Smith and the CBJ are to be commended for the progressive approach they plan to follow in producing a Tourism Master Plan. This spring the CBJ contracted with Egret Communications to help design a plan to guide tourism growth in Juneau.

The decision to take this course of action was predicated on the highly charged nature of tourism issues throughout Juneau's recent history. According to the work plan issued by Egret, the essence of the plan is stated as follows:

"A successful tourism plan is defined as one that makes a net positive contribution to the quality of life of the destination's citizens, now and into the future."

In other words, tourism can successfully coexist with a community only if it is integrated into the fabric of a destination community in a way that enhances rather than compromises the quality of life.

The city staff has placed high emphasis on the importance of broad public participation throughout the eight-month long planning process.

Last Wednesday, Maria Gladziszewski, director of the Office of Tourism, gave the Juneau Empire's Citizen Editorial Advisory Panel an overview of the plan. From what we've seen of the methodology to be used, the city will be opening the door for an unprecedented level of public participation. In addition to public hearings and presentations, local residents will have a plethora of chances to take part in the process, and will even be enabled to participate without leaving their homes.

Through the wonders of technology, registered voters who have voted in the last two elections will be able to engage in polling using secure passwords and a computer. The city will soon be publicizing the details on how this will happen. Provisions are being discussed to allow those without computer access or computer know-how to also participate in polling.

For the first time the city will be able to engage a significantly large portion of the local populace in a public process that is designed to guide the future of tourism for Juneau based on the will of the people from all sectors of the community.

Maria has offered to present the plan to other groups who are interested. The local media will be working hard to present as much information as possible to keep the public well informed throughout the planning process. The Juneau Empire plans to create an archive of the entire planning process with free public access through the Internet.

The true measure of success for this venture will come when it is time to implement the conclusions of the plan. We encourage everyone to get involved. We hope to see good attendance at the public meetings, and those who don't go to meetings have an easy way to voice their feelings via the polling options.

The Tourism Master Plan will form the road map for Juneau's future. Don't sit this one out.

Don Smith


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