Making Tourism Work for Juneau

Some of the more popular solutions Juneau’s TBMP handled involved practical issues like increased pedestrian traffic.

Twenty-six years ago, Princess Cruises shore operations director and Juneau resident, Kirby Day, did something so basic, and yet often overlooked in any community — he started a conversation.

At the time the number of cruise passengers was increasing about 14% each season. Kirby knew that if the cruise line industry didn’t consistently account for Juneau’s community needs, there would be tension on the horizon.

This was the foundational dilemma that Kirby sought to mitigate by establishing the Tourism Best Management Practices. First referred to as “Voluntary Compliance,” the TBMP was Day’s process for connecting the industry he worked for and the city he lived for. The Juneau Assembly embraced the idea and soon, it wasn’t just city officials and one specific cruise line, but multiple cruise lines, plenty of local vendors and businesses, and the community at large who were having talks, establishing procedures and building relationships that would facilitate a thriving tourism economy.

Some of the more popular — or at least noticeable — solutions the TBMP brought to bear dealt with practical issues. For one, increased pedestrian traffic during port calls meant sidewalk and crosswalk overflow in downtown Juneau. While the foot traffic was great for local shops, unregulated street crossings were both dangerous and a hindrance to local traffic. With TBMP collaboration, the city installed a collection of aesthetically pleasing sidewalk planters, borders and stanchions to encourage pedestrians primarily to cross at crosswalks and also employed seasonal crossing guards for the downtown area.

Other TBMP efforts included overhauling the flight-seeing helicopter flight paths and times to lessen noise pollution over residential areas, reducing harbor wake from watching boats by providing a ferry to get more passengers onto more boats outside the harbor, or preserving trail systems on Douglas Island by making them suitable for larger groups.

Probably the most enduring result of Kirby’s TBMP has been the Tourism Hotline. Originally administered by tourism operators and the Juneau Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, the Tourism Hotline enables solution-based actions as close to real-time as possible. Kirby even goes so far as to say that to the community’s credit, their willingness to use the hotline has allowed everyone involved to address issues before or during the tourism season, and not just at the end. This is critical, because new practices can be implemented and adjusted while an issue exists, and not simply on paper during the off-season.

 “The TBMP worked because one, the city officials bought in. Two, the cruise line operators got behind it and three, the community got involved,” Kirby explained. With systems like the hotline securely established, Kirby stepped aside last year as the TBMP transitioned to Travel Juneau under the leadership of Elizabeth Arnett. But he will still be watching from the sidelines  – as both a cruise line operator and a Juneau resident.

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