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A recent paper by the Alaska Travel Industry Association requests that the state spend $12.5 million right now to address the "extraordinary and profound impacts" of Sept. 11 on the travel industry in Alaska. The forecast for 2002 is "bleak," they assert; businesses may close, and an emergency, state-funded marketing campaign is the only way to avert disaster to the travel industry.
Congress recently gave billions to the airline industry, including Alaska Airlines, for similar reasons. The difference is that the airlines are U.S. companies that employ U.S. workers with high wages and benefits. Importantly, the airline companies and their employees also pay state and federal taxes.
The chief beneficiaries of a marketing campaign for the Alaska travel industry are the foreign-owned cruise ships, staffed by thousands of low-paid foreign workers. If the cruise companies paid state business taxes, their request should be considered. Instead, the cruise lines spend millions each year for consultants and advertising in order to avoid any state or local taxes on their billion-dollar operations in Alaska.
A far more worthy investment of state marketing money is the Alaska seafood industry, which does assess itself for state marketing and aquaculture, while seafood employees and fishermen pay federal income taxes. The seafood industry directly affects the citizens of every coastal town in the state, not just those with cruise ship docks.
If the travel industry desires a fiscal partnership with Alaska to market their cruise ships and shore excursions, they should drop their adamant opposition to a proposed passenger fee that could go toward the docks, harbors and municipal services that they use throughout the state.