Members of the Visitor Industry Task Force, city employees and the public watch as City Manager Rorie Watt gives a presentation on the growth of the cruise ship industry in Juneau during a noon meeting at City Hall on Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Members of the Visitor Industry Task Force, city employees and the public watch as City Manager Rorie Watt gives a presentation on the growth of the cruise ship industry in Juneau during a noon meeting at City Hall on Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

More and bigger ships are coming to Juneau, other stops in Southeast

Tourism Task Force hears about state of the industry

Juneau’s Visitor Industry Task Force met for the second time Tuesday, as the city tries to get a handle on how the growing tourism industry will impact the community in the coming years.

Mayor Beth Weldon established the task force last month to examine and address the numerous factors that affect Juneau’s visitor industry.

The meeting was held in cramped quarters after technical difficulties forced the meeting to move from Assembly chambers at City Hall to a smaller, upstairs conference room.

City Manager Rorie Watt ran the task force through a series of slides showing how tourism in Juneau had grown over the years, and how the city had dealt with, and could deal with, changes in the industry.

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“We can be good at seeing what it looks like from Juneau, but sometimes it’s hard to see what we look like from the outside,” Watt said.

Juneau was an extremely popular tourist destination, Watt said, but with that popularity comes complaints about congestion and emissions from cruise ships in the Gastineau Channel.

During a peak day, (Juneau’s peak day is Tuesday) the city can get up to 15,000 cruise ship visitors, Watt said. Not all of those people are off the boats at the same time though, as ships rotate spots at berths.

“We’re one community of many, (cruise ships) don’t just come here, they go other places,” Watt said. “How and when they go to these places is complicated. Things that happen other places in the region may impact us, we feel the ripple effects of other people’s decisions.”

A lot of Juneau’s traffic depends on what happens in the Port of Seattle, according to Watt since most Juneau-bound cruises originate there. A smaller number start in Vancouver, and how the cruise industry is able to market their voyages affects scheduling.

Watt told the task force that most people want to begin and end their trips on the weekends, which is why Juneau’s peak traffic occurs during the week.

Juneau ranks high on destinations offer by cruise lines, and more ships are wanting to come to the region. The ships are also getting bigger.

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Part of what the task force is meant to look at is how the city will deal with all those people once they arrive.

“How do you move that many people?” Watt asked rhetorically, mentioning also the need for other facilities like bathrooms.

Juneau’s popularity as a destination was reflected by Norwegian Cruise Lines spending $20 million dollars earlier this year to purchase a plot of land on Egan Drive with the intention of building a dock there.

“The Norwegian folks are coming back the second week of December,” Watt said. “My advice to them has been, ‘Go slow.’ The question is not really should Norwegian get to build a dock, but where do we want to go as a community.”

Assembly member Carole Triem, chair of the task force, said that this was the task force’s first substantial meeting. Looking at how Juneau fit in the region’s tourism industry was useful she said.

“I think the cruise lines are going to want to send their ships here no matter what we do,” Triem said in an interview with the Empire.

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She said there were things the community could do once those people get off the boats.

“That’s where I think we have room to be maneuvering and have control,” Triem said.


• Contact reporter Peter Segall at 523-2228 or psegall@juneauempire.com.


Assembly member Carole Triem chairs a meeting of the Visitor Industry Task Force during a noon meeting at City Hall on Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Assembly member Carole Triem chairs a meeting of the Visitor Industry Task Force during a noon meeting at City Hall on Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

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