As the visitor industry returns, Juneau considers hiring a tourism manager

Tourists off the Norwegian Sun book a Mendenhall Glacier tour near Juneau's waterfront on one of the last days of 2014's tourism season. Passenger numbers were similar to last year's. (Photo by Ed Schoenfeld/CoastAlaska News)
Tourists off the Norwegian Sun book a Mendenhall Glacier tour near Juneau’s waterfront on one of the last days of the 2014 tourism season. The city is looking at establishing a tourism management office to better coordinate all of the independent tourism-related activities the city manages.  (Photo by Ed Schoenfeld/CoastAlaska)

On Monday, the Juneau Assembly took one of its first substantive steps to follow through on a task force’s recommendations for managing the visitor industry.  

The first recommendation in the Visitor Industry Task Force’s final report (completed in March of 2020) was to establish a tourism management office in the city government, which means creating a new position for a tourism manager. 

“We have a mosaic of management on the waterfront, between Public Works, Parks and Rec, and Docks and Harbors, and it can be clunky, but it can work quite well, as well. And it requires a lot of coordination,” said City Manager Rorie Watt. 

Centralizing would mean the city could more easily work with the cruise industry with a holistic view. 

The position description hasn’t been written up yet, but Watt said there’s one specific duty that would give the city better leverage with the cruise ship industry. 

“The lynchpin though, I think for the success of a tourism manager is … that they have a role in the scheduling of the docks,” Watt said. 

The city owns two of the four berths large cruise ships can tie up to but largely leaves scheduling and logistics up to a private business that works with the cruise lines. 

Watt is working on budget legislation to pay for the position. That will still have to go through a public hearing process and Assembly vote before it’s final. He estimated $150,000 in cruise ship passenger fees would be enough to fund the position once hired through next June.

He said he hopes someone will be hired by September.

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