Alaska is set to receive more than a million visitors from the cruise industry for the first time in seven years. The 2016 boom in passenger numbers comes despite major cruise companies such as Royal Caribbean Cruises and Carnival Corporation increasing their fares for Alaska Cruise itineraries.
Over ten years, the numbers show a steady increase from 2006 to over a million passengers in 2009, then a significant slowdown to 878,000 visitors in 2010. Since then, it has climbed steadily with a projected 1,014,000 Alaskan Cruise enthusiasts for 2016.
The Alaska Visitor Statistics Program shows that between May and September 2015, of the 1.78 million people visiting Alaskan shores, 56 per cent were brought in by the cruise ship industry. Although the vessels bring with them large crowds which produce pollution and waste, they also bring tax revenue and jobs that the local Alaskan economy benefits from.
Finance director for the capital city of Juneau, Bob Bartholomew, said as of July 31 the city has had a three per cent increase in Alaskan Cruise passengers compared to the same period in 2015. Sales tax revenue generated by cruise ship guests is projected to reach $7.7 million for 2016.
As cruise ship companies are building bigger ships, the Port of Juneau Cruise Ship Terminal Project is installing new docks to accommodate for the ultra-large vessels, with one recently added and operational and a second due to be completed in 2017.