Officials in Ketchikan want longer cruise visits

Committee members say the industry logs shortest stays in city

Posted: Monday, July 21, 2008

KETCHIKAN - City officials are hoping to convince the various cruise lines to stay a bit longer in their Southeast Alaska community.

They plan to invite representatives of various cruise lines to Ketchikan to discuss lengthening stays in port.

According to the Downtown Steering Committee, Ketchikan has the shortest stays on average of the three primary Alaska cruise port cities.

Downtown Steering Committee members Susan Peters and Todd Phillips have been urging the city council to try and get cruise ships to stay longer.

Peters, who owns Scanlon Gallery downtown, said the time individual ships spend in Ketchikan has shrunk over the past few years, which reduces the amount of money cruise passengers spend in Ketchikan. That means less sales tax for the local government and reduced employment opportunities.

She handed out a document with information the steering committee compiled that indicated in 2008 total port hours for Ketchikan will be 3,700, compared with 6,496 for Skagway and 6,843 for Juneau.

Phillips, who owns Trinkets in downtown, said the city built the new Berth III and has leased the new privately built Berth IV to accommodate cruise ships' needs. The old saying is, "If you build it, they will come," he said, but "what if they don't come?"

Phillips said many of the ships this season will stay about six hours in Ketchikan, which gives most passengers enough time for one tour and nothing else. He said the worldwide average port stay is between eight and 10 hours.

If the cruise ships stayed a total of 1,000 extra hours in Ketchikan over a season, he said, it could bring up to $1.8 million more in sales tax.

Ketchikan city council member Chuck Freeman was skeptical of the city's ability to convince cruise lines to extend port stays.

He said cruise ships are running slower to conserve fuel costs, and they have a certain amount of time to get from one end of the Inside Passage to the other, so the time has to come from somewhere.

He predicted that cruise agency representatives will come here, smile, "pat us on the back," and then do what they want.

"I think it's pretty much a forlorn hope," he said.

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