ALASKAN FLAVOR – Young dancers Eloise Branch, Ella Haley Colliver, Maddox Dozier, Molly Hames, Maddy McDevitt, Aurora Phillips and Annie White emerge from the skirt of Mother Ginger, played by Jill Kisaka, during a rehearsal for “The Nutcracker” Wednesday. The Alaska-themed ballet opens 7 p.m. tonight at the Performing Arts Center. Tickets are on sale at and at the door. (Sentinel Photo by James Poulson)

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Daily Sitka Sentinel

Cruise Line Industry: 'Please Work with Us'


Sentinel Staff Writer

When it comes to solving problems related to growth in cruise ship visitors, the cruise industry would like to work with communities, an industry official told a gathering of more than 300 business, city, tribal and civic leaders in Sitka today.

“Cruise wants a seat at the table,” said Wendy Lindskoog, regional vice president of the Royal Caribbean cruise line at a panel discussion at the Southeast Conference annual meeting here. “Don’t be afraid to invite us into those conversations, the regional conversations, the local conversation,” Lindskoog said.

Wendy Lindskoog, regional vice president of the Royal Caribbean cruise line, second from left, speaks at this morning’s panel discussion on tourism at Harrigan Centennial Hall. (Sentinel Photo)

Her comments at Southeast Conference came in the wake of Friday’s filing of an application to circulate an initiative petition calling for a limit on the number of cruise ship passengers coming to Sitka. An ad hoc citizens group is proposing a special election on a proposition for an interim cap on visitors at 240,000 starting in 2024. The application was filed by Larry Edwards, but the initiative has some 44 other co-sponsors.

Lindskoog was one of six speakers on the Visitor Industry panel on the first day of the SE conference annual meeting. Also giving tourism updates were Rachel Roy, executive director of the Sitka Chamber of Commerce and chair of the Southeast Alaska Tourism Council; Renée Limoge Reeve, vice president of government and community relations for Cruise Lines International Association Alaska; Jillian Simpson, president and CEO, Alaska Travel Industry Association; Camille Ferguson, Sitka Tribe of Alaska economic development director; and Alix Pierce tourism manager for the City and Borough of Juneau.

Lindskoog followed Pierce, who spoke about Juneau’s tourism work and stressed the need to work together as a region.

Lindskoog’s topic was to be about guest satisfaction and win-win scenarios, but she also addressed some of the criticism expressed by residents in cruise destinations.

“‘Hey, we’re feeling tension around too many visitors, what can we do’” she said. “We have the numbers, we have guest satisfaction data, we can bring a lot to those conversations and help find those solutions, and that’s exactly what we want to do.”

She said the conversation about growth in cruise tourism in Alaska is similar to those in other popular destinations, including Maine, Greece and Santorini.

Noting the awkwardness of talking about the topics in the context of the proposed initiative, she provided some information about today’s cruise passengers. 

“No surprise to anybody in this room that Alaska is the trip of a lifetime,” but the demographics are changing to include more families and younger people, she said.

One of the benefits to communities, she said, is the high number of cruise passengers who return as independent travelers. Guests are continuing to be attracted to Alaska for its scenery, wildlife, and “remoteness,” and to experience culture, and small communities. They want to learn about its people, history, food and art, she said.

“The state and the industry continue to deliver on these types of experiences,” which is why Alaska scores higher in guest satisfaction  compared to the rest of the world. Lindskoog said. “So even though we have some tension in our system, we’re seeing a lot of crowding, and you might think that would impact guest satisfaction rates. It’s not.”

She said even this year, with the sharp increase in visitors, Alaska satisfaction rates are higher than those reported for most of the top European ports.

“Alaska remains one of the most desired places to visit, and this data continues to support the trend we see for repeat visitors to the state,” she said.

Lindskoog said some of the “tension” is due to a number of factors, including higher passenger numbers, the “hangover” from the pandemic and inflation.

“So do you want to talk about the elephant in the room a little bit?” she asked, referring to the proposed initiative. “I’ve heard, but I can’t prove this but I’ve heard some people think that the level of guests, (people) are not enjoying their experience in Alaska because of the overcrowding situation.”

But she said Royal Caribbean’s data is not showing that.

“And again, right here in Sitka, where there’s been a lot of growing pains, a lot has happened quickly since 2019, but our company has seen guest satisfaction scores here in Sitka this season as higher than last year in those categories.”

A few problem areas that visitors have identified are “work capacity,” which is not surprising, Lindskoog said.

“Everybody is trying to play catch-up on tour capacity – that has lagged behind the growing passenger numbers,” she said. “And so there’s a lot of work going on within that space.” 

A few comments from guests about Sitka is that they enjoyed the community, had trouble finding an excursion and would like to have more time in port here.

In closing, Lindskoog said, “I want to make sure that everybody in the room really understands that the industry is working on solutions of some of the shortfalls, which include adding new attractions, businesses, and tours. And these businesses just need time to get up and running so that the passengers who are now visiting this community can be dispersed.”

Lindskoog stressed the need for all parties to work together on a tourism management plan, such as the one now being developed in Sitka. She noted Juneau’s work in a collaborative process that led to a five-ship limit for that community.

Discussing win-win outcomes for communities and cruise companies, she brought up the benefit of an ongoing revenue stream to towns from an industry bringing 60 percent of visitors to Alaska.

“It’s always a great reminder that you have an economic base through tourism here and Southeast,” Lindskoog said. “And yes, there are things that can always be worked on and improved, but the numbers bore out and the positivity bore out that there was good economic activity and that’s always a win-win, not just for our guests but obviously for local Alaskans.”

She said she hopes that solid economic activity in the summer leads to businesses being able to stay open year round.

She highlighted some industry collaboration with Sitka nonprofits, such as providing matching funds to finish the connector to the Sitka Cross Trail, and contributing to the Scientists in the Schools program. Her company also works with local companies to purchase seafood and other products on board the ships.

“The bottom line is our guests continue to absolutely love Alaska,” Lindskoog said. “We want to be part of making sure they can continue to do so and we recognize there’s some work ahead. One of our main mantras is we want to deliver great vacations responsibly and that means being a very good community partner in all that we do.”

Comments from other panel members will be reported in a later edition of the Sentinel.

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At a Glance

(updated 9-12-2023)

By Sentinel Staff

The state Department of Health and Social Services has posted the following update on the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Alaska as of 8:57 a.m. Tuesday, September 12.

New cases as of Tuesday: 278

Total cases (cumulative) statewide – 301,513

Total (cumulative) deaths – 1,485

Case Rate per 100,000 – 38.14

To visit the Alaska DHSS Corona Response dashboard website click here.

COVID in Sitka

The Sitka community level is now "Low.'' Case statistics are as of Tuesday.

Case Rate/100,000 – 152.50

Cases in last 7 days – 13

Cumulative Sitka cases – 3,575

Deceased (cumulative) – 10

The local case data are from Alaska DHSS.






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Sitka’s new city engineer, Dan Jones, 51, says his nearly 30 years in the field has given him qualifications for all aspects of his new post. ... He replaces Milt Ludington, who has moved to a different position in the city public works department.



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One of the most active organizations around town this fall has been the Sitka High Drill Team, the Wolverettes. A spaghetti feed Saturday is the latest project.


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