Tourism poll finds split opinions, common ground

Posted: Friday, November 02, 2001

People who responded to the city's first tourism Web poll had mixed opinions about how many cruise ship passengers Juneau can handle.

According to results from the five-day poll, 32 percent of respondents said Juneau has all the cruise ship passengers it can handle, given the current infrastructure. Thirty percent said Juneau has more passengers than it can handle; 25 percent said Juneau could handle more; and 13 percent think Juneau could handle substantially more.

The first of five Internet polls closed Thursday morning. According to the city, 1,293 adults and 218 students responded. The answers will be incorporated into the city's long-range tourism management plan.

Bob Harvey of Egret Communications, who is heading up work on the plan, said the poll identified common ground on lifestyle and social issues, pollution and the economy.

"I see in the first 15 questions the opportunity to carve out wins for just about everybody in Juneau," Harvey said. "We can make progress on the issues that are bothering people and can make progress on the economic issues."

About 680,000 cruise ship passengers visited Juneau this past summer. Planners have been grappling with the question of whether Juneau residents are more concerned about the number of visitors or the effect of those visitors on the community.

According to the results, 47 percent of poll respondents said they would be comfortable with a minor or substantial increase in cruise passengers "if the impacts were reduced to a tolerable level and kept there." Under that scenario, 27 percent said they would prefer to limit the numbers, and 26 percent said they would prefer the current level.

In response to a question about helicopter noise, 41 percent of respondents said it bothers them "very much" or "occasionally," 15 percent said "somewhat," and 44 percent answered "not at all." Fifty-one percent of respondents said they aren't bothered by floatplane noise, while 28 percent said they are bothered "very much" or "occasionally," and 21 percent said "somewhat."

City Tourism Office Director Maria Gladziszewski said she was pleased by the response and hopes more people participate next time.

"It's not a random poll. It's analogous to a big public meeting more than anything," she said. "We understand the limitations to that, just as there are limitations in a random poll. It's a self-selecting group of people, just like in an election."

The balance of responses by precinct was similar to the balance of returns in the last election, she said.

"It's just a beginning. Now come the harder things. We know you are interested in business, but you are also interested in water quality," she said. "Now comes the question of how do we accomplish both of those things."

The second round of Web polling starts at 7 a.m. Saturday and closes at 7 a.m. Thursday. To participate or view complete poll results, visit www.cbjtourism.com or www.juneauempire.com/tourism. People who are uncomfortable with computers or unable to use one can contact the city about filling out a paper copy of the poll, Gladziszewski said.

Joanna Markell can be reached at joannam@juneauempire.com.



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