(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire file photo)

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire file photo)

My Turn: Cruise industry and community collaboration has been and will continue to be effective

I was pleased to read that Kate Troll recognizes the economic importance of the visitor industry, and supports continued collaboration between the community and cruise line leadership. However, if we are to have open and honest dialogue regarding the future of the industry it is important to have a factual basis for local decisions. Unfortunately, Ms. Troll’s article drifts much too far from what has actually occurred, using the same tired accusations by the minority of critics who have been opposing growth and the industry for well over a decade. This continued inaccurate rhetoric creates a further divide and benefits no one. Let’s set the record straight.

To begin with, the city has always and continues to negotiate from a position of strength. The cruise industry wants our guests to be welcome in communities we visit. One of the reasons Juneau continues to maintain such a positive rating by all visitor types (cruise, air, ferry) is guests have felt welcome and appreciate the passion of locals who share what makes Juneau such a special place to live. These local businesses, operators, and friendly faces charm cruise visitors each and every time they visit.

Environmental protection has been another area of successful collaboration. In partnership with the cruise industry, Juneau was the first community in the world to offer shore power, allowing ships to reduce both air and noise emissions. Ports around the globe took note and replicated this success.

Regarding wastewater, it wasn’t a political effort as Ms. Troll asserts. The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation formed a science panel to assess the world’s best wastewater treatment technology. Many, many hours were spent studying actual science with the panel concluding that cruise ship treatment systems, “are the most advanced, effective, and proven treatment systems available and…are significantly more effective than most municipal systems.” They found no harm to any aquatic species and this is not only well documented, it has been followed up by years of testing that continues today.

Passenger fee use is another example of successful collaboration. In negotiating, there is rarely 100% agreement among parties. Surely, Ms. Troll knows that. There have been tough conversations to work through issues, but the result has been good for both the local community and industry.

It is important for everyone to understand, it is federal law — not the cruise industry — that restricts the uses of passenger fees unless they provide a direct benefit to the vessel. This is not just true of marine ports, but of airports as well. Landing fees at the airport cannot legally be used for a park, the same way passenger dock fees cannot. The disagreement in the law led to needed clarification by the court for both parties. No one was trying to get out of paying taxes, just better align the parties on the legal use of taxes.

We now have an annual process to work through passenger fee uses. This is obviously an inconvenient truth for Ms. Troll’s argument, but the final result is an ongoing dialogue between the city and industry where we discuss growth, impacts, and how to utilize taxes to help mitigate impacts, in spite of what tourism industry detractors would have you believe.

Finally, if you really want to see a shining example of collaboration, read the Tourism Best Management Practices (TBMP) guidelines. These have grown to over 100 voluntary practices such as reducing outside PA announcements and avoiding certain local parks and trails — just two examples of this living and ever-growing program — leading other communities in Alaska, and across the country, to duplicate its success in their own local practices. This program was created and championed by the residents of Juneau, constantly evolving to help mitigate visitor impacts.

I’m fond of the saying, as humans we are all entitled to our own opinions, but not our own facts. The cruise industry has been and will continue to engage in productive dialogue with our partners at the city and in the community. Let’s all work on collaborative efforts to continue our track record of success.

• Renée Limoge Reeve has worked for Alaska state and federal government officials, an Alaska trade association, and now serves as the vice president for government and community relations for Cruise Lines International Association in Alaska.

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