Members of local business organizations greet cruise passengers with maps and other handouts as they disembark from the Norwegian Bliss on April 25, 2022. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire file photo)

Members of local business organizations greet cruise passengers with maps and other handouts as they disembark from the Norwegian Bliss on April 25, 2022. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire file photo)

A call for collaboration, not restrictions on cruise ship tourism

Please don’t sign.

I feel it is time to speak up about the recent signature-gathering campaign aimed at banning cruise ships from visiting Juneau on Saturdays. While I try to understand the reasoning behind this initiative, I simply cannot support punitive actions that negatively affect Juneau.

I believe in balance, quality of life and a vibrant economy. I am passionate about collaboration and profoundly proud of the unprecedented accomplishments of our community. Having had the privilege of serving on the Juneau Visitor Industry Task Force, I want to commend the community for putting in the collaborative time and effort to find solutions. I also commend the city for enacting the recommendations, especially the negotiation of the five-ship-per-day capacity. This achievement underscores effective collaboration among all stakeholders, showcasing dedication to finding sustainable solutions for our community while engaging with the industry. It signifies a milestone in our ongoing efforts to balance the benefits of tourism with the preservation of our local environment and community resources while fostering the strong economic foundation Juneau needs. The foresight and collaborative spirit demonstrated by all stakeholders, including the cruise lines themselves, involved in reaching this agreement are commendable and warrant recognition. It was a trust-building exercise on a grand scale.

As someone whose life revolves around Douglas and downtown Juneau, I am sensitive to the ebb and flow of activity downtown. Saturdays are already our quiet days, a time when many friends and family members appreciate the “normality” of weekends. It’s a day when I encourage fellow locals to come downtown and enjoy the open streets, the ample free parking, and the vibrant community atmosphere. Our restaurants and stores are open, and downtown feels alive — a true community destination.

This campaign doesn’t just target the cruise lines; it punishes our local businesses and alienates innocent visitors who can’t understand why they are unwelcome. It encourages closures and takes away the vibrancy that makes Juneau unique. Our city thrives on the balance of tourism with local life, and disrupting that balance will harm our economy and the livelihoods of many who call Juneau home.

You may remember, this is the same group that attempted three separate campaigns in 2021 and failed each time, hearing the resounding sentiment of our community. Now, they’ve returned with a watered-down version, seemingly intent on sticking it to the cruise lines they dislike. But who are they really going to hurt? I believe it’s our local businesses and innocent visitors.

Instead of creating arbitrary restrictions, let’s put our energy toward solutions that truly benefit the community. Together, we can continue building a vibrant and resilient capital city that benefits all residents. Let us take pride in the success of our community, which is admired around the world. As someone deeply invested in Juneau and in the tourism industry, I am proud to serve and brimming with pride for our town.

• Holly Johnson is a Douglas resident and has been in the tourism industry since her college years in Sitka starting in 1991. She is a 24-year employee and investor in Wings Airways, owns a flyfishing guiding service with her husband, and runs her own boutique interior design company. Holly also serves on the steering committee for Protect Juneau’s Future, a coalition dedicated to advocating for informed decisions regarding cruise tourism in Juneau.

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