Juneau happy with tourism as it is

Many residents say benefits outweigh costs, survey shows

Posted: Wednesday, December 27, 2006

A large plurality of Juneau residents like tourism but don't believe the rapidly expanding industry needs to grow, according to a recent survey commissioned by the Assembly.

The survey was conducted by the McDowell Group, a Juneau-based research firm.

Roughly half of Juneau residents said the current level of tourist activity is enough, and about the same number said they wanted the number of cruise ship passengers to remain the same as in 2006, according to the survey.

It also revealed that 47 percent of residents believe that tourist activities are positive for the city. Nearly half said the benefits outweigh the costs.

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Mayor Bruce Botelho said the survey would be used as a "benchmark" for the Assembly and other public officials to evaluate citizen priorities.

"It becomes, among other things, a baseline," he said. "(It evaluates) community attitudes toward our own progress on the issues of concern, or lack of progress."

The 2006 survey was the fourth of its kind - the others being completed in 1995, 1998, and 2002. The study was commissioned in order to see how perceptions of the industry have changed.

Similar questions have been asked each survey year.

According to the latest survey, 40 percent of respondents said tourism had a "positive impact," and only 8 percent cited a "negative impact."

Thirty-four percent cited "both positive and negative impacts," 17 percent said it had "no impact at all," and 1 percent responded "not sure."

Botelho said the surveys show that most residents are relatively consistent on their feelings toward tourism, despite industry changes and the fact that visitor income has nearly doubled to $1.1 million in 2006.

Forty-seven percent of Juneau residents said that local government is not doing enough to manage the impacts of tourism growth.

Downtown foot traffic congestion, vehicle congestion, and noise from helicopters and airplanes were named as the most problematic negative impacts.

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Botelho said that the issue of helicopter noise - which 23 percent of the respondents said affected them personally - has been a problem noted by citizens for years, but the current Assembly has not yet discussed ways to address the issue.

The popularity of offshore excursions has risen, particularly those which include airborne sightseeing.

More than half the respondents said improving downtown infrastructure would make them more supportive of an increase in cruise ship passengers.

Botelho said information such as this will help officials in making decisions about how to develop the city's infrastructure.

"We will, as a city, have to decide in the future, what kind of berthing for cruise ships we will be prepared to undertake," he said.

"The size of cruise ships is increasing and our downtown city-owned docks will likely need major refurbishments," he said.

That is a measure currently being discussed by the city harbor board. It will likely come before the Assembly in the spring.

The random telephone survey included 508 Juneau households using a random-digit-dial method to ensure inclusion of listed and unlisted numbers. It was conducted Oct. 11-20 and was presented for the first time to the city's finance committee during its Dec. 13 meeting.

McDowell Group said the maximum margin of error, at the 95 percent confidence level, was plus or minus 4.5 percent.

Web links

To view the 2006 Juneau Tourism Community Opinion Survey, visit the city's Web site, www.juneau.org.

• Brittany Retherford can be reached at brittany.retherford@juneauempire.com.



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