SITKA - Sitka municipal officials have drawn a line on the pavement to shield cruise ship visitors from aggressive vendors.
Responding to complaints that tourists were being bombarded by shore-side salesmen hawking tours, the city Wednesday put new rules into effect that prohibit vendors from straying outside designated spaces in the staging areas that visitors pass after they're lightered off cruise ships.
The assigned spaces are marked by painted yellow lines in the shape of a box.
The side of a box facing the public is 4 feet, 10 inches wide.
City official said the new rules were working.
"People are in their boxes, and everybody is complying," said Don Kluting, manager of Centennial Hall.
Kluting said Centennial Hall staff, the harbor department and City Administrator Jim Dinley had been fielding complaints about escalating and increasingly ugly tactics used by vendors selling wildlife tours by van, boat or flights.
"The problem has escalated to the point we had to do something right now," Kluting said. "It didn't develop overnight. It's been going on over the years."
Cruise ship representatives and tourists complained they had to walk a gauntlet of competing shore-side businesses.
The chaos and competition, and bad behavior by some operators, created a bad impression of Sitka, Kluting said.
"After they've been approached by 15 different operators, they say, 'We don't want to take a tour after that,"' he said. "We've seen it happen time and time again."
Vendors themselves complained.
"It's an unpleasant atmosphere," said vendor Emily Davis before the new rules took effect.
Others said operators try to steal business or make false claims about competitors.
Businesses now will be prohibited from soliciting, negotiating or executing sales outside their designated areas.
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