WRANGELL - Cruise ship industry officials said at a regional civic meeting that they expect next summer's tourist season to be flat compared to years of impressive growth.
Competition from other destinations is a major factor in the slow growth expected next year, said Don Habeger, vice president of marketing for Royal Caribbean and also representing the Northwest Cruiseship Association.
Habeger and others spoke to business and civic leaders gathered in Wrangell for the Southeast Conference annual meeting.
Southeast Alaska will only get one additional cruise ship next year from Holland America, and Crystal Cruises will take one ship out of the region, Habeger said.
Figures from 2003 to 2004 show Mexico's western destinations are getting about 45 percent more passengers, and routes through Hawaii and New England/Canada showed 35 percent each.
Alaska had the slowest growth at 12 percent. The Caribbean continues to be the No. 1 cruise ship destination in the industry worldwide, Habeger said.
Ron Peck, president of Alaska Travel Industry Association, said other regions visited by cruise ships have aggressive marketing programs.
Alaska has enjoyed leaps of growth over the past 15 years. In 2001, the state had 690,000 visitors. Last year, 876,000 visitors came to Alaska and this summer industry officials said 920,000 people came by cruise ship.
Habeger told an inquiring audience member that his company was not interested in adding more ports of call.
Hoonah is the most recent port, added in 2004. It took some 10 to 12 years of planning to make it happen, Habeger said.
"These decisions are not made overnight," Habeger said. "But, we're willing to listen."
Besides the new port in Hoonah, port projects and improvements are happening in Juneau, Whittier and Ketchikan.
Alaska has about 7 percent to 8 percent of the world cruise ship market, Habeger said.
Due to a federal act, cruise ships are not allowed to transport passengers from one port to the other. So, the industry is limited to making round trips from Washington and British Columbia, Habeger said.
On average, cruise ship passengers and their crew generate $30 million in tax revenue to municipalities.
The cruise ships have a total economic contribution of $878 million.
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