There’s a lot of focus on the growing tourism industry in Alaska, specifically with cruise ship passengers. But another growing area not many are talking about is the mid-size ship industry.
Heather Haugland, senior project manager at the McDowell Group, a local research and consulting company, said that this is one of the most exciting areas of growth at a Juneau Chamber of Commerce luncheon Thursday.
“It had been in the back of my mind, watching that market increase, and when I really dug into the numbers I was surprised at just how many mid-sized ships are coming in the next couple of years,” Haugland said in an interview with the Empire after the presentation.
Mid-size ships carry 250 to 1,000 passengers, and account for just 2.7 percent of the total cruise market in Juneau. But that market grew from two to five vessels from 2017 to 2018.
“I read all the time that mid-size luxury is this huge market growing all the time,” Haugland said in her presentation. The Hurtigruten will be the first hybrid-electric powered cruise ship in Alaska and is set to start sailing in 2020 with a 530 passenger capacity.
When it comes to large ships with over 1,000 passengers, the biggest trend developing is that the ships are getting bigger. Some are almost doubling going from 2,000 passenger capacity to over 4,000.
Over the period from 2016 to 2018, the number of cruise ship tourists went up by 13 percent, air travel tourists went up by 4 percent and ferry travelers went down by 12 percent. Haugland said the decline in ferry passengers was mainly due to a decrease in services and sailings, however.
Some other tourism stats from her presentation from a 2016 survey:There were 2,800 tourism jobs in Juneau, accounting for 12 percent of the workforce
Cruise visitors on average spent $162 a day, most of that being on tours and activities
26 percent of visitors surveyed had been to Alaska before and 25 percent said they were very likely to return in the next five years
Another question the McDowell Group asked visitors was what the thing was they felt they missed on their trip to Juneau. Haugland said most people answered that they missed seeing the Northern Lights.
But she said, “I’m not sure what we can do about that,” which drew laughs from the crowd.
• Contact reporter Mollie Barnes at email@example.com.