Kristine Harder of Northwest Pewter speaks to the crowd at the Southeast Tourism Summit Conference that took place in Juneau in July.

Three Alaska cruise ports are considering whether to modify their passenger fees to give some short-term relief while a drive to repeal or revise the $50 head tax moves forward, according to the organizer of the recent Juneau citizens’ summit.

Attendees of the Juneau meeting called for legislative action on the $50 head tax and a state promotional effort to get the cruise lines back.

But summit organizer PeggyAnn McConnochie, executive director of First Things First Alaska Foundation, said legislative action may take too long. The next legislative session begins in January. Cruise lines, which months ago announced capacity reductions in 2010, are well along in 2011 deployment planning.

“The tourism economy is already in so much trouble, we can’t wait to do something,” McConnochie told Seatrade Insider. “If cruise lines could see something being done on a local basis with head taxes, there is potential for [a turnaround in] 2011.”

If action isn’t taken to revive tourism, Alaskans will be going out of business, McConnochie warned. “The retailers are already feeling the pinch,” she said, citing a shop in downtown Juneau that is closing. She also noted that fewer people are buying high-end excursions, putting a number of smaller tour operators under pressure.

“This is not just about a $50 head tax. This is about a whole package of costs,” McConnnochie said, adding that the state has to show it wants tourists; there has been no concerted promotional outreach in years.

McConnochie thinks support is growing. Before the Juneau gathering, many people were talking about the need to do something, but focus was lacking.

Now, she said, “It’s a train that’s building up steam.”

Source: Seatrade Insider

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