It comes as the Juneau Convention and Visitors Bureau has been focused on increasing the number of independent travelers - those who arrive here by some mode other than cruise ship and generally stay longer and spend more money.
"Any incentive they offer to spend more time in our community is welcomed and will bolster the economy," JCVB President and CEO Lorene Palmer said. "Any additional time spent in Juneau is additional business."
American West Steamboat Co. will pay the tab on round-trip airfare from Seattle to Juneau for cruises booked by Feb. 26 aboard the sternwheeler Empress of the North, marketing vice president Joel Perry said Thursday.
Already, indepedent travel is on the rise, Palmer said.
Air arrivals increased about 3 percent from May to September in 2003 and 2004, she said. This year there were 150,475 deplanements, compared to 145,704 last year, she said. A portion of those people took a cruise from Juneau, Palmer said, though she had no figures.
Juneau had 27,170 ferry visitors in 2003, Palmer said. Figures for 2004 are not yet available, she said.
Each independent traveler spent about $280 per day and a party of two spent $538 on such items as food, lodging and tours in 2003, Palmer said. The average length of stay was about 2 nights, she said.
The seven-night cruises, which have 550 people booked so far, would leave from and return to Juneau.
While some passengers would only have about four hours in Juneau before they board the ship, the company is offering overnight stay packages, which would help the city's independent travel market. So far the company has booked 76 people in 38 rooms at the Baranof Hotel in downtown Juneau for the overnight packages, Perry said.
In addition, the company also is offering 11-night cruises at the beginning and end of the season, including a Juneau day tour and a night at the Baranof. About 200 are booked so far.
The ship, which has 112 state rooms, made a couple of stops in Juneau in 2003 and this year, but 2005 will mark the first full season in which it offers free airfare and overnight stay packages, Perry said.
Tara Sidor can be reached at email@example.com.