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Neumann: ‘Overtaxing and overregulating has a direct effect on the industry’

Bob NeumannBriefly describe business:  We are a day-cruise business that takes visitors into Prince William Sound to experience the amazing tidewater glaciers of Port Wells and College Fjord, as well as the abundant wildlife, history and scenery that is unique and exclusive to that area of Alaska.  We also operate a small historic hotel in Anchorage and a gift shop specializing in Alaska gifts.

When did you first become involved in the visitor industry?:  I have been working in the visitor industry since 1985 when I opened Grizzly’s Gifts in downtown Anchorage.  Three years later, I purchased and rebuilt the Historic Anchorage Hotel and in 2003, purchased Phillips Cruises & Tours from Brad and Helen Phillips.  Phillips Cruises & Tours has been operating in Alaska for more than 50 years.

How is your business affected by the cruise industry:  Phillips Cruises & Tours is based out of Whittier at the terminal dock for cruise ship passengers embarking and disembarking the cruise lines. Many passengers choose to take our day trip to complement their Alaska cruise experience.  Grizzly’s Gifts benefits directly from cruise passengers during their stay in Anchorage, both pre-cruise and post-cruise.  Many of our best sales days fall on “cruise ship days.”

What’s the best part of your job?:  Taking one of our cruises  and observing the excitement and enthusiasm visitors have for our state and its breathtaking beauty and expanse is one of the best parts of my job.  Being in front of a calving glacier, surrounded by wildlife and amazing landscapes watching passengers having an experience of a lifetime just cannot be beat.

What is your favorite cruise passenger story?:  An elderly cruise passenger upon seeing the massive blue face of Surprise Glacier began to break down and cry and only woke from the emotion of the moment by an enormous ice calving, the sound of which shook the boat.  His tears immediately turned into hysterical laughter for the duration of the cruise.  I am not sure if he was laughing at himself or just overwhelmed by the experience.  I like to believe he was overwhelmed by the experience.

What should Alaska do to better support/protect visitor/cruise industry?:  The state legislature and governor’s office need to recognize the economic benefits that the cruise industry brings to our state.  Thousands of jobs would not exist without the cruise industry.  Overtaxing and overregulating has a direct effect on the industry.  A healthy balance must be permanently grounded in our state and not be continually revisited with each new legislature or governor.  This can only be achieved through education and promotion of the industry directly with the support of our government on the local and state level.

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