City and Borough of Juneau City Manager Rorie Watt holds up a chart showing the increase in size of cruise ships during a meeting of the Tourism Industry Task Force in the Assembly chambers on Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2019. At Monday's meeting members of the City Assembly's Committee of the Whole discussed three of the committee's recommendations-a discussion that was sidelined by COVID-19. (Michael Penn /Juneau Empire File)

City turns to tourism management ahead of short cruise season

Community survey coming, new tourism job being considered

When large-deck cruising returns to Juneau for the 2022 season, a tourism manager — employed by the City and Borough of Juneau — may be in place to help manage the season.

With an abbreviated cruise ship season about to resume, members of the City Assembly’s Committee of the Whole reviewed a trio of items related to visitor management at their meeting Monday night — an effort that was started in 2020 but sidelined due to COVID-19 related issues.

The committee agreed to move forward with the process of seeking a full-time tourism manager — a suggestion that came from the mayor’s Visitor Industry Task Force. Committee members also heard an update on an upcoming resident survey and reviewed a three-year calendar of potential action items related to tourism management.

“Hiring the tourism manager is the largest recommendation of the Visitor Industry Task Force,” said Rorie Watt, CBJ city manager.

Watt told the committee that the team managing issues related to tourism right now is “very dispersed” and that hiring a tourism manager would help centralize functions.

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“We have a mosaic of management on the waterfront,” Watt said. “It requires a lot of coordination.”

In a memo to the committee members, Watt said that the tourism manager would serve as a central point of contact for tourism-related projects and issues. In addition, the person selected for the job will manage a variety of wide-ranging duties that include facilitating long-term decision-making around tourism-related issues, forming partnerships to recognize areas in need of structural change, collaborating across stakeholders and working with cruise ship companies, industry groups, the CBJ Assembly and community members through a variety of processes.

After Watt’s presentation, Mayor Beth Weldon moved that the city manager draft an ordinance outlining the position and allocating $150,000 in funding for it. The motion passed without objections. The CBJ Assembly will review the ordinance once drafted.

“Hiring this person is not the end, it’s the beginning,” said Maria Gladziszewski, assembly member. “It will be a big job. I want the assembly to be prepared for continued discussions. Just hiring this person is not going to solve all our problems.”

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Survey plans

In the next few months, CBJ will conduct a community survey to gauge the public about the impact of tourism. During the budget process, the assembly allocated money for the survey, which is a recommendation of the Visitor Industry Task Force.

CBJ planning manager Alexandra Pierce told the committee that the city is moving forward with plans to conduct the survey online and by phone. The telephone portion of the survey will contact 500 residents and will be statistically valid. The online survey will be open to the entire community.

According to a memo shared with the committee, “the survey will focus questions to gauge public perception on tourism impacts in the community and the proposed NCL dock at the subport.”

Questions will be based on previous surveys on tourism impact conducted in the ‘90s and early 2000s, according to the memo.

Pierce said that the survey results will allow the city to track trends and that results should be available in October.

• Contact reporter Dana Zigmund at dana.zigmund@juneauempire.com or 907-308-4891.

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