News from Patrick Flynn

Cruising for a bruising?

In an effort to keep tabs on various aspects of life in Anchorage, the Assembly assigns its members to serve as liaisons to several local organizations.  I’m not sure how it so happened that I got tapped to serve as the Assembly representative on the Anchorage Convention & Visitors Bureau board, but it’s a pretty good fit.  Partly because I represent downtown, which sees quite a bit of visitor traffic, and partly because my day job involves a fair amount of interaction with the tourism industry.  I attended ACVB’s quarterly board meeting earlier this week so I thought I’d share a little bit about what I learned.

As readers likely know, a weak world economy has been tough on the visitor industry with most operators seeing decreased traffic and revenue.  Additionally, the 2006 ballot initiative establishing head taxes and increased regulatory requirements has engendered some negative feelings amongst cruise ship companies.  As Alaskans we can’t do much about the former, but it might be worthwhile to think a little more about the latter.

Next year Anchorage will see its first regular cruise ship arrivals when Holland America‘s MS Amsterdam calls on our port throughout the summer.  This good news is tempered by the fact that in 2010 Princess will reduce the number of its vessels turning in Whittier from four to three, Carnival will pull out of Southcentral all together and the Holland ship passing through Anchorage used to turn in Seward.  In other words, we’ll see tens of thousands fewer visitors passing through Anchorage next year.  But what impact, readers might wonder, will this have?  Here are a few ways you might notice changes:

  • Air travel.  If you happen to travel during the summer you may have noticed that there are fewer airlines serving the Anchorage market.  While our home state carrier, Alaska Airlines, is offering more flights than they did last year the overall number of seats available has dropped.  And, by the way, fares are somewhat higher.  I don’t pretend to understand all the factors that impact air fares so I won’t guess where they might head next summer but I am confident that fewer cruise ship passengers passing through Seward and Whittier mean fewer air passengers passing through the Anchorage airport.  And that means fewer flights available for those who need to travel during the summer months.
  • Hotel rooms.  Fewer visitors mean fewer hotel rooms filled.  Hotel bed taxes support not only ACVB but also the MOA budget and, if hotel property values fall, so does the property tax collected.
  • Hospitality industry jobs.  While I’m sure everyone who reads this blog patronizes downtown businesses, and restaurants in particular, at every opportunity it just so happens that those establishments also rely heavily on summer visitors’ patronage.  I know this information from experience – the highest revenue months at the small downtown business in which I’m a (vocal) silent partner occur during the summer.  When businesses have lower revenues they cut costs, meaning jobs.
  • Charitable giving.  Many readers know that I’m a longtime supporter of the United Way, meaning I make a substantial annual contribution and encourage others to donate and/or volunteer to improve our community.  Again, my day job provides insight as I’ve been informed of companies curtailing their corporate giving budgets in response to shrinkage in the tourism industry.
  • Ripple effects.  No secret here – less travel, reduced tax revenue, fewer jobs and reduced support for non-profit agencies all affect the larger economy and community upon which we all depend.

And?  I do not intend to employ scare tactics as the tourism industry is like any other in that its aspects both positively and not-so-positively impact us (e.g. I dislike being stuck behind a bus or an RV as much as anyone else!).  That said, the economic activity generated by visitors to our state is an important component of our overall economy and, even if you don’t work in the industry, you likely have a family member, friend or neighbor who does, at least tangentially.  So here’s what you might consider thinking about:

Some time in the August to October time frame cruise companies will publish their Alaska schedules for 2011.  If you believe cruise ship passengers traveling to Southcentral Alaska provide a benefit to our community then say so – tell your elected officials, write a letter and/or show your support at any public events that I suspect may be ocurring in the not-too-distant future.  Even if you aren’t personally involved in tourism you might consider how it, and the cruise industry, are important to Anchorage.



This contribution was made on Friday, 17. July 2009 at 17:25 and was published under the category Fiscal matters. You can follow comments on this entry through the RSS-Feed.

«  –  »

No Comments

No comments yet.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.



Community councils


Local government


State government


RSS Feeds – Admin


Copyright - Patrick Flynn, All Rights Reserved