My Turn: Cruise ship initiative doesn't make sense

Posted: Monday, August 07, 2006

Ballot Measure 2 does not make sense. Why would we want to subject the cruise lines to such hostility?

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Have you ever been on a cruise? What a great way to have a vacation. Regular people, just wanting to have a vacation, travel via cruise ship to see and experience some of the most beautiful ports on earth. Why can't we share?

These happy people on vacation just get to see and try a tiny taste of what we take advantage of every day. Sometimes, they get just enough to entice them to come back via airplane so they can spend a couple of days in the locations that they liked or go to where the boats don't take them. Eighty percent of all returning visitors have first been to Alaska on a cruise and come back as independent travelers. The majority of the rest are visiting friends and relatives. If it wasn't for the cruise lines, most people would have to be acquainted with an Alaskan to realize they could share this piece of heaven with us. Alaska spends less money on its marketing campaign than the state of Idaho. We depend on the cruise industry to do our work for us, so we can spend our money on social services, the cost of government and efforts to promote growth in other industries. So many people do not understand or appreciate the economic ripple effect that the cruise lines have in Alaska.

The guy who built my house and the guy who fixed my broken window and the owner of my favorite restaurant should all be thanking the cruise lines for a portion of their livelihood, not chasing them away by charging a $50 head tax per cruise passenger, encouraging frivolous lawsuits where lawyers can collect 50 percent of all awards, requiring them to disclose their shore excursion margins, and establishing an additional level of government oversight that costs taxpayers money. All of these actions are incorporated in the initiative.

This is unbelievable. For a family of four, their cruise would be $200 more. If the cruise lines thought the market could afford $200 more, don't you think they would already be charging it? People don't want to know how much more money they are paying for a rafting tour than what the cruise line bought it for. If they think the tour is too expensive, then they won't buy it. It's basic supply and demand. Why mess with that? It will just drive customers away from the ships to try to arrange tours on their own, which will result in a lower level of customer service, fewer tours purchased from small tour operators and people leaving Alaska with a lesser experience than they would have had.

It's ridiculous to think that our waters will be cleaner because a government employee is on the cruise. As it is, the Alaska cruise line industry is a leader for worldwide marine environmental standards and has received accolades from the U.S. Coast Guard for their efforts to institute environmental safeguards.

Alaskans in general may not realize that cruise lines, on a purely voluntarily basis, contribute 40 percent of the total dollars spent to market Alaska to prospective visitors. I'm talking about money spent to tell people to drive up the highway or go to some small fishing village, not to tell them to take a cruise. How much money will they have left in their budget to help us communicate the general come-to-Alaska message if they have to eat the tax that their customers can't afford? It scares me, because without the financial support of the cruise lines, we would not have an effective marketing program at all.

Alaskans who care about our economy will vote no on Ballot Measure 2.

• Kelli Dindinger is the president of Alaska Travel Adventures in Juneau.

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