Cruise ships sail through strong season

Juneau attracted an estimated 1 million visitors in 2006

Posted: Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Even before Zuiderdam, the last cruise ship of the year, left Juneau on Monday, one downtown gift shop manager said business was great this summer.

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"It's always an awesome season," Tiffany LaPierre of the Juneau Mining Co. on South Franklin Street said. "You meet people from all over the world."

When they're counted up, cruise passengers will probably total a few more than the 953,000 that visited Juneau in 2005, said Lorene Palmer, Juneau Convention and Visitor Bureau chief executive officer. "I believe that's what we'll come very close to."

A more solid number will have to wait for paperwork from customs officials, but it looks like this year's cruises had more families sharing cabins, increasing projected capacities, Palmer said.

The number of cruise ships and their calls in port were down compared with 2005, but the companies are running bigger ships up Southeast Alaska's Inside Passage.

Last year, 42 ships made 613 calls to Juneau. This year, 37 ships made 586 calls. The bigger ships limit the number that can be in port, she said.

It is too early to gauge the effect on Juneau's economy, she said. In 2005 cruises brought about $177.2 million into Juneau, based on projections from the McDowell Group, which found the average cruise passenger spent $186 in port.

Of that, $100 was spent on tours. Palmer said the industry will get an idea this fall of how much money cruises brought to Juneau this year.

Palmer said she doesn't know if the $50-per-person tax approved by Juneau voters in August will have any effect on next year's season. "It's too early to say how various aspects of the ballot measure will be implemented."

She does know that people already are already booking cruises for next season, when 957,000 passengers are expected in Juneau.

How Juneau businesses did this season might depend on the type of operation, she added.

Juneau set a record this year for most summer days with measurable precipitation - 109 of 153 days from April through August. People know they are cruising to a rain forest, but some Juneau tours depend on good weather, she said. At the same time, shops may prove a refuge from the rain.

Rainy Sunday, in fact, was a big day at the Juneau Mining Co., LaPierre said.

"This year was better (than 2005)," said Tara Pasillas, a sales clerk at the store, crediting the abundance of rain.

"All this rain and the wind - (business was) better last year," said street vendor Bernadette Bundy, while serving midday customers at Bernadette's Barbecue, at Front and Seward streets. After telling a local customer she wouldn't be working this winter, she said it has still been a good year.

"Very busy," said the former City Café cook, who has sold Filipino barbecue from a cart since 2000. She does better when more people are on the streets.

"The smell is my advertising. If they smell it, they come over," she said.

Alissa Carlile of Adventure Bound, which operates tours to Tracy Arm, said the company will run its last tours of the season today.

"It was a good year," she said.

Palmer said independent travelers push the total number of visitors to more than 1 million.

Figures for this year aren't yet available, but in 2005 there were about 150,000 independent travelers to Juneau. People who come by plane or ferry continue to have a strong showing.

"Air arrivals continue to go up," she said. "Hotels have had a strong summer."

At the same time, cruising is one of the most popular forms of travel in the world, Palmer said. "We've talked to people who are on their seventh Alaska cruise."

• Tony Carroll can be reached at tony.carroll@juneauempire.com.



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