Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Encore berths at in the Juneau Harbor in late October. Findings from this year’s Juneau Tourism Survey showed nearly 75% supported limiting the number of large cruise ships per day in Juneau’s harbor to five. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)

Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Encore berths at in the Juneau Harbor in late October. Findings from this year’s Juneau Tourism Survey showed nearly 75% supported limiting the number of large cruise ships per day in Juneau’s harbor to five. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)

Survey shows preference for daily limit on ships visiting Juneau

Respondents generally report positive impact, but shine light on some challenges.

This article has been updated to reflect respondents reported both positive and negative impacts on tourism on their household, not Juneau as a whole.

Nearly three-quarters of Juneau residents who responded to a recent survey would like to see a limit on the number of cruise ships berthed in Juneau each day, according to recently shared results.

Findings from this year’s Juneau Tourism Survey, conducted by the McKinley Research Group, formerly McDowell Group, were shared Monday night with the Assembly at the City and Borough of Juneau’s Committee of the Whole Work Session meeting.

Though the full surveys are still being finished, the information shared at the meeting gave insight into Juneau residents’ notions toward tourism in the capital city, confirming there hasn’t been much change of heart in citizens’ beliefs since the first tourism survey given in 2002.

Of the 500 random CBJ residents who participated in a survey taken this summer, nearly 75% supported limiting the number of large cruise ships per day in Juneau’s harbor to five. Nearly 70% of the people surveyed also supported the idea of developing a visitor focused public transit option to access downtown and popular attractions.

Other information shared in the survey showed 35% of residents reported tourism has had only positive impact on their households, while 7% reported only negative impacts and 41% of residents believe tourism has had both a positive and negative impact on their household, an 8-percentage-point increase from last year’s results.

Currently, the maximum number of large cruise ships that can be accommodated in Juneau’s harbor at the same time is five — four docked and one at anchor — but there is wiggle room for a sixth ship to dock via hot berthing — meaning when one ship leaves and another takes its place later that day — which realistically means six ships could come within a day.

“This is all to make sure we’re able to manage the volume we’re managing now and get better at managing the volume that we have now,” said Alexandra Pierce, tourism manager at CBJ. “If we’re adding ships to that volume then it could be more than we can take on — and the community told us in the survey that’s not what they want.”

[Big change could be on deck for Juneau’s waterfront]

Pierce pointed to a memo she shared at the Monday night meeting in which she advised the Assembly to take a look at some of the long-term strategy recommendations for tourism management that were set by the Visitor Industry Task Force 2020.

Though the Assembly accepted the VITF final report of tourism management priorities back in 2020 — which included more than 50 recommendations — the Assembly never formally implemented its policy recommendations, due in part to the COVID-19 pandemic halting efforts.

During the committee meeting, Pierce recommended the Assembly adopt a resolution that formalizes CBJ’s intent to begin taking formal action toward long-range policy objectives like negotiating a formal agreement to create a five-ship-per-day limit, along with formally adopting a resolution that tackles “big-ticket items” like dock electrification and completing the Seawalk.

“These are big policy things that came out of the task force that we should make sure they are put into regulation somehow,” she said.

If the five-ship per day limit goes into agreement, Pierce said it would mean that even if a new dock is built in the future, such as the proposed Àak’w Landing, the five-ship limit would still stand. The Àak’w Landing is a proposed downtown waterfront pier and cruise terminal which is being led by Huna Totem Corp. and is currently in its planning phase.

Pierce also said the impact tourism has on public transportation was among her significant takeaways from the survey.

She said currently, the city has seen an unprecedented number of visitors use the public bus system to get to popular destinations like the Mendenhall Glacier, and she said it’s gotten to the point where it’s impacting residents who use Capital Transit as their main transportation system. According to the survey, around 1.15 million cruise ship passengers visited Juneau in 2022.

Pierce said results from the survey might not mean the city will extend Capital Transit’s reach to include routes to transport visitors from downtown to the glacier for example, but she said the survey confirmed that CBJ needs to look for solutions to fix the current impact visitors are having on Capital Transit and resident users.

The full results of the survey are set to be released in the coming weeks, according to Heather Haugland, a research analyst at the McKinley Research Group, and are expected to be shared with the Assembly ahead of its upcoming retreat.

• Contact reporter Clarise Larson at clarise.larson@juneauempire.com or (651)-528-1807. Follow her on Twitter at @clariselarson.

By the numbers

— 1,150,000. That’s the number of cruise ship passengers who visited Juneau in 2022, according to a recent survey. That’s up from 741,500 in 2002, but down from over 1.3 million in 2019.

— 74%. That’s the number of survey respondents who said they were either “supportive” or “very supportive” of limiting the number of cruise ships in Juneau to five per day.

— 69%. That’s the number of survey respondents who voiced support for CBJ to consider developing a public transit option for visitors to access downtown and popular attractions.

— 41%. That’s the number of survey respondents who said tourism has both positive and negative impacts on their household. That’s up 8 percentage points from a 2021 survey.

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