For the first time in seven years, Alaska welcomed its one millionth cruise ship visitor.
Wendy Yoisten from St. Albert, Alberta, Canada, with her husband, John, arrived on the Holland America Line ms Zaandam, which docked Sept. 22 in Juneau. Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott, Juneau Mayor Ken Koelsch, CLIA Alaska President John Binkley and a number of officials and residents of Juneau surprised Mrs. Yoisten as she disembarked for the day.
Native dancers greeted the couple, and Mrs. Yoisten received a medallion, plaque and basket of gifts from Alaska businesses.
“We are so excited to welcome you to Alaska and our capital city of Juneau,” said Binkley. “Your arrival is a significant milestone. Reaching one million cruise visitors this year demonstrates the health and bright future of our industry.”
Governor Bill Walker issued a proclamation for the occasion, declaring Sept. 22 as Alaska Cruise Ship Visitor Day. In his remarks, Lt. Gov. Mallott recognized the proclamation, which states that visitor spending generates more than $4 billion in economic activity, helping all regions of our state. He added that cruise ships bring approximately half of all visitors to Alaska. Mayor Koelsch read a proclamation highlighting Juneau’s position as Alaska’s most popular cruise ship port. Koelsch noted that visitor spending supports Juneau businesses, creates local jobs and accounts for 20 percent of sales taxes collected year-round.
The industry is expected to bring even more visitors next year as Alaska continues to increase capacity. Holland America Line recently announced that it would be adding a seventh ship to the Alaska market next year. Seabourn has also announced that it will be returning to Alaska in 2017 for the first time in 15 years.
The last time Alaska saw more than 1,000,000 cruise visitors was 2009. “Following years of amazing growth, Alaska took a big hit,” Binkley said. “We lost about 15 percent of our market. Many businesses suffered and statewide, Alaska lost more than 5,000 jobs.
“Alaska is now seeing the benefits of the improved tax and regulatory environment enacted in 2010,” Binkley said. “Demand has also improved, following several years of significantly increased destination marketing. We have been able to build back our industry and all indications are that we will continue to grow.
“With our economic situation, the challenge now is to keep Alaska competitive with the rest of the world and to keep marketing programs robust,” Binkley said.