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The results of the first online tourism poll are in and the good news is that there appears to be common ground for Juneau's tourism economy to work socially and environmentally. Keep in mind the questions in the first poll were focused on broad general issues and real conclusions won't come until the information-gathering phase is completed and analyzed.
The first poll can be counted a success as a little over 1,500 residents used their personal identification numbers to log their responses to 15 questions on a computerized form. This is a very good turnout for the first time around. Hopefully the participation will grow through the remaining four polls.
The fact that 1,500 citizens took part in a public process that yielded such immediate and definable results in such a short time is remarkable. We can now look past the superficial discussion on a number of local issues and see with a reasonably high degree of certainty how people feel. Tourism Director Maria Gladziszewski characterized the poll as "analogous to a big public meeting." Indeed, participation in this sort of forum is fast and painless.
Some questions produced strong indicators. It is clear from the responses that people want both economic gain and sustained quality of life from tourism.
On the question " Does helicopter flightseeing noise bother you personally," 20 percent of respondents indicated that they were bothered very much, with 80 percent responding that they were bothered occasionally, somewhat or not at all.
Since the results were broken out by precinct, those areas seeing greater impact from noise and congestion naturally scored higher dissatisfaction.
Question 14 was somewhat wordy and produced ambiguous results. It read: "Some Juneau residents have expressed concern about the growth of tourism in Juneau. We're wondering if those concerned about tourism growth want to reduce the impacts of tourism or if they object to the absolute numbers of tourists, regardless of their impacts. We know there are ways to lessen the impacts of tourism. So, if impacts were reduced to a tolerable level and kept there, what would you want to do about the volume of cruise ship tourism?"
The results showed that 47 percent of respondents would be comfortable with a minor or substantial increase in cruise passengers. Under the same circumstances, 27 percent said they would prefer to limit the number, and 26 percent said they would prefer the current level.
The poll revealed that no one wants the tourism economy to go away and very few want to see it shrink.
In fact, it appears that even the precincts most impacted by noise and congestion, want to see growth in jobs, business opportunities, and visitor spending
Question 15 asked participants to rate the importance of air and water quality, congestion, noise, tourism-related jobs, tourism spending and business opportunities. The results showed that air and water quality are at the top of the list in relative importance.
The overall results of this first poll are encouraging. There appears to be more common ground than we might have imagined given Juneau's contentious history on the subject.
More difficult questions will be aired in the next four polls. Can we find a way to balance the opposing influences of a robust tourism economy in a way that we can preserve the attributes that make Juneau such a great place to live and visit?
Be a part of the process by participating in the polls and meetings. If the computerized version of the poll is not for you, contact the city about filling out a paper copy.
More information about the long-range tourism plan and polls is available at www.juneauempire.com/tourism/ and www.cbjtourism.com.