Cruise ship visitors gather for their tours on the Seawalk on Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2017. (Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)

Cruise ship visitors gather for their tours on the Seawalk on Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2017. (Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)

Opinion: We need responsible limits on tourism

Now is the perfect time to rethink before we restart

  • Saturday, April 24, 2021 6:30am
  • Opinion

This article has been updated to remove a reference to a blog post that stated Disney Cruise Line could accommodate the terms of proposed cruise-related initiatives. The blog referenced has no affiliation with DCL.

By Sue Schrader

It has been a rough couple years for the tourist industry around the world and in Juneau. Thankfully, the Cares Act provided some relief to many Juneau businesses reliant on summer tourism, but it’s looking less and less likely we will see the big ships in the harbor this season. So, many people might wonder, why would a recently formed local group, Juneau Cruise Control, propose limits to cruise ship tourism?

Is Juneau Cruise Control against tourism? No! Tourism enriches our lives whether we are traveling to other destinations or welcoming visitors to our town. Every time I leave CBJ’s boundaries, I become a tourist. Our group unequivocally supports a healthy and appropriately sized tourism sector that includes cruise ships and independent visitors. Many of us remember the days when we stopped to talk to tourists and helped them navigate their tourist maps. Now, we simply avoid the downtown areas from May to September. We need responsible limits.

Is this the right time to propose limits? This pandemic-induced pause has exposed Juneau’s over-reliance on cruise ship tourism, and now is the perfect time to rethink before we restart. Juneau has a unique opportunity to focus our efforts on creating and supporting tourism opportunities that are sustainable and better aligned with our community’s character. It’s all about finding the right balance.

Does Juneau Cruise Control know that local businesses are hurting economically? Yes! Local business owners are our family, friends and neighbors. Their wellbeing and financial security enhance our community. These same businesses prospered over the years and will prosper again. Travelers will always want to visit Alaska, and we all can encourage tourists, and each other, to support our local businesses.

There is a global movement to balance quality of life, community wellbeing, and a resilient local economy by limiting the impacts of an industry that generates widespread noise, congestion, and pollution. Venice (Italy), Key West, Bar Harbor, Seattle and many other cruise ship destinations are setting limits and boundaries on cruise ship activity to enable their towns, large or small, to accommodate visitors graciously.

The Juneau Cruise Control-proposed initiatives would allow for cruise tourism to continue with modest changes. Economic benefits will continue, especially as people realize Juneau is committed to welcoming visitors to a great destination.

For years, Juneau residents have talked of common-sense restraints on mega-cruise ship tourism. Recently, the city’s Visitor Industry Task Force, recommended many expensive infrastructure projects that benefit the cruise ship industry, but that Juneau will pay for. Unbelievably, the industry has already sued CBJ over the use of passenger fees for projects that benefited our community. Now, they want us to pay for infrastructure that will primarily serve their needs. The initiatives give us the opportunity to decide our needs. It’s our turn to say what we want for our town.

Juneau voters have the right to practice direct democracy. We can petition to put city charter amendments before the voters, and the voters have the right to vote yes or no. These initiatives present three proposals, and voters can support one, two or all three. Evenings for locals only, ship-free Saturdays and a reasonable ship-size parameter will help Juneau continue to be a great place to visit and live.

The sky will not fall if the initiatives pass. Those opposed to them claim that these three proposals will devastate Juneau. This view over-dramatizes the outcomes and ignores our community’s desire for a bit of balance and restraint. As each year passes and more, and larger, cruise ships arrive, tourism in Juneau has gotten way out of balance. Now is the perfect moment to consider a re-balancing.

The 11 initiative sponsors are all longtime residents who look forward to engaging in respectful discussions and gathering signatures. Then, Juneau residents will vote in the October CBJ election and make their voices heard. For more information, talk to one of our signature gatherers or email us at: juneaucan@gmail.com. We are committed to a bright tourism future in Juneau that benefits all stakeholders.

• Sue Schrader has actively engaged in a variety of community issues during her 30 years in Juneau.

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