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

Juneau's Tourism Chief Touts Collaboration


Sentinel Staff Writer

When it comes to cruise ship tourism issues, a Southeast-wide approach is best, Juneau’s tourism manager said Tuesday in a panel presentation at the annual meeting of the Southeast Conference.

“Regional collaboration as we move forward is about shifting from being reactive to proactive,” said Alix Pierce, tourism manager for the City and Borough of Juneau.

Alix Pierce. (Sentinel Photo)

Pierce was part of the Visitor Industry panel and addressed different aspects of cruise tourism as it impacts the communities affected. She spoke before a packed house at Harrigan Centennial Hall Tuesday, where more than 300 people from panhandle communities are attending the annual meeting of the Southeast Conference to discuss shared regional economic issues.

In addition to tourism, that list includes transportation, natural resources, fishing, mariculture,  healthcare, housing and broadband.

Pierce talked about the need for regional planning and expanding the number of communities that participate in those efforts. She said she hopes a regional work group will help “sow the seeds of that strategy and identify our common goals.” 

“And so the future is regional,” Pierce said. “It’s really great that we have this forum here where we’re able to have these regional conversations,” she said.

Sitka is already working on regional planning with other communities, and has an Assembly-appointed citizen task force taking on directives related to cruise ship tourism. One of the directives is “Regional strategies to advance Sitka’s interest regarding cruise tourism.”

City Administrator John Leach commented today that he and Mayor Steven Eisenbeisz have been working with the cruise industry to develop future solutions in a collaborative way, and that he plans to attend the Southeast Conference discussion with officials from other ports Thursday.

In her talk on the tourism panel Tuesday Pierce spoke about Juneau, which has decades of experience dealing with large-scale cruise ship tourism. In April this year the city signed a memorandum of agreement with the cruise industry association on a management plan that includes a limit on ship visits to the capital city. It was the result of collaboration between the industry and the task force.

“We’re hoping to build on that effort and expand that group into more of a regional strategy,” Pierce said. The task force came up with 62 recommendations that its members are working to implement.

Pierce’s negotiated agreements with the cruise industry include the limit of five ships per day, and one that states that the ships will not unload garbage while in port. She noted that the cruise visitation numbers have been on an upward trajectory in Juneau, but will be “steady” next year for the first year the agreement is in effect.

“As a result of that agreement we’re steady and have time to figure out what our next step is, as we continue to hear from our community, that maybe we’re a little bit too busy with 30 percent growth,” Pierce said.

She also stressed the importance of surveying community opinion, using a methodology that is “truly a random sample.”

“We hear a lot from people who feel particularly affected or have particularly strong opinions about the visitor industry, or any topic really, and it’s critical to try to get your finger on the pulse of what the residents you don’t hear from are thinking,” she said.

Since the 1990s surveys have generally reflected that tourism is both positive and negative, but that the positives outweigh the negatives.

 “And also, (officials hear) the city is not doing enough to manage tourism, and we see those in the same percentage numbers from 1995 to 2022, and over a million more visitors,” she said.

Pierce also talked about Juneau’s “Tourism Best Management Practices” program. One of the Sitka task force’s directives is to help develop a similar plan for Sitka. 

Juneau’s document says the goal is to “minimize the impacts of tourism in a manner that addresses both residents’ and industry concerns.” Pierce says that Juneau’s program is a model for other communities around the U.S. and the world.

She noted that Juneau and other Southeast ports are experiencing problems related to supply and demand of shore excursions, and growth compounded by labor shortages. 

Shore excursions, usually local businesses, “are typically what drives our economic impact; they’re also the source of most of our negative resident feedback about the visitor industry and the source of most of our (Tourism Best Management Practices) calls.”

The feedback is leading planners to look at improvements, such as new trails, expanding space on the waterfront for tour operators, and adding excursion capacity.

Citing some examples, Pierce said what happens in one community will affect others in the region.

“Those are the things we need to take into account as we consider the future of tourism and what a sustainable visitor industry looks like over the next 10, 20, 50 years,” she said. “That can’t necessarily mean runaway growth. Emerging ports that want the opportunity to grow also need the opportunity to be proactive and intentional about it.”

Other speakers on the panel talked about regional tourism planning efforts, marketing, cultural tourism, and sustainable cruise ship tourism projects, and also fielded a few questions from the audience.

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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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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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