One of the biggest complaints by local officials in communities affected by cruise ships is that the whole proposition is an economic bust for the local economy. With the exception of paying port fees the presence of cruise ships generates very little revenue for local business. Passengers sleep onboard thereby avoiding a lodging bed-tax; most meals are taken onboard thereby avoiding food sales tax; and most shopping is done in stores that are only open seasonally and employee workers from outside the local community. All the while life is disrupted as the city or town is inundated with hundreds of thousands of people every day. Officials go on to cite that waterways and wilderness areas are adversely affected as well; increased marine traffic means more air, water and noise pollution with an increased chance of accident. Pristine parks and wilderness areas host a continuous parade of mega-ships belching smoke and non-stop chatter that echoes for miles. It’s no wonder locals in Southeast Alaska do not look forward to the cruise ship season.
Worldwide many areas are facing the same dilemma; well, Alaska has done something about it. A few years ago the city of Juneau was the first to restrict what ships could and could not do within the city limits including no broadcasts to the outside decks and use of no horns, whistles or bells. This was prompted by a call-in survey asking residents if cruise ships disrupt their daily routine and if so, how? Reaction of the community of 30,000 residents caused the restrictions to be put in place along with a $7 per person head tax to compensate for lost revenue. The new tax of $50 is to go to all communities that host cruise ships for the building and repair of dock facilities and other community related projects. (Please see USAToday article http://www.usatoday.com/travel/destinations/2006-08-31-tourist-taxes_x.htm)
Though this seems fair and equitable, I am confused. It is my understanding that most of the new docks in Alaska were built and are maintained at great cost by the cruise lines. If that is true, where is the money going? I have no doubt there are plenty of projects from which the communities could benefit; I think cruise ship guests paying this tax would feel better about helping the State of Alaska if they knew how their money was being spent. In my opinion, it could be very good for public relations for the state, the cruise industry and the travelling public to get this information out. What do you think?