Familiar topics such as cruise passenger volumes, flightseeing noise and congestion will be a part of Juneau's long-range tourism plan. So will marketing Juneau to noncruise passengers and how the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks could change the visitor industry.
The city hired Egret Communications and ARA Consulting last spring to complete a long-range tourism plan. At meetings Thursday, the consultants discussed what they've been working on, answered questions and posed some of their own.
Team leader Bob Harvey said Juneau residents have made progress on tourism-related issues such as trail use and pollution. Flightseeing studies are nearly complete and ready to be used, he said. But the relationship between Juneau and the people who come to visit could be better, he added.
"Where would cruise passengers go if the numbers are capped or managed? What does that mean for Juneau and for the lifestyle and economy?" Harvey asked.
Planners hope the public will answer those questions and others in the months ahead in a series of five Internet polls and more public meetings.
Whether recommendations to place heliports at Dupont and Montana Creek are accepted or not, Harvey said he hopes Juneau moves rapidly to resolve the flightseeing issue.
"People ought to get on with it and let things go," he said.
Planning also will cover destination travel, or noncruise ship visits.
The Juneau Convention and Visitors Bureau estimates Juneau gets 100,000 independent travelers a year, a number that has been stable for a decade. And the total includes Southeast residents who come to shop and people who are in town to lobby the Legislature, Harvey said.
Boosting that number would be good for local businesses and likely wouldn't add to congestion, planning team member Diane Kelsay said.
"You could probably double that number and not even notice," she said.
Destination travel paints a more realistic picture of what Juneau is about and attracts people who value Alaska's natural and cultural attractions, Kelsay added. Juneau could be a statewide leader in destination travel, she said.
The effect of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on tourism also will factor into the work. The attacks may change when people make reservations, lead to declines in overseas travel and certainly will change worldwide travel predictions, Harvey said.
"The only thing you can predict right now is that you don't know what's going to happen," Harvey said. "Two months from now it may be different again."
Don Bremner, who is working on the Celebration 2002 regional Native gathering for the Sealaska Heritage Foundation, said he is interested in how tourism affects quality of life in Juneau and how cultural and ethnic tourism fit in. The focus on independent travel is important, he added.
He wonders if the long-range plan will be another technical analysis or something that Juneau can use to better market itself.
"We have a lot of studies," he said. "Is this another one of those that will go back to another political issue of noise and growth or are they going to implement it? I don't know if it is really a plan or another study."
Raija Wilson, who used to work in the tourism industry in Juneau, said she stopped by Thursday's meeting to see where the discussion is at. Juneau overlooks the recreation opportunities tourism could provide for local residents, she said.
"We focus on the bad effects rather than what we could get out of tourism that could improve our lifestyle," she said.
Web polling should start this month and wrap up by Dec. 1. Another public meeting will be scheduled in December. More information about the long-range tourism plan is available at juneauempire.com/tourism/ and www.cbjtourism.com.
Joanna Markell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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