Juneau residents split over city’s response to impacts of tourism, according to survey

A view from the Goldbelt Tram of a Princess Cruises ship docked in Juneau on Aug. 31, 2021. (Photo by Jennifer Pemberton / KTOO)

The results of a public opinion survey on tourism in Juneau are out, and about 2,400 Juneau residents weighed in. 

To participate, people had to live in Juneau during the summer of 2019 — the last big tourism season before the pandemic. 

On the overall effects of tourism, 36% of people who responded said they thought it had a positive impact on them; 33% said tourism had both positive and negative impacts; 20% said it didn’t have any impact and just 8% of people said tourism has a negative impact. 

These trends are similar to results from past surveys in 2002 and 2006. The McKinley Research Group, formerly the McDowell Group, conducted the survey for the city. The McDowell Group had been conducting these surveys since the 1990s.

Heather Haugland from McKinley Research Group presented the survey findings to the Juneau Assembly on Nov. 29. She thought it was significant that the results were so similar for the past 19 years, considering how much the tourism industry has changed during that time. 

“So between 2002 and 2021, or 2019, we almost doubled our cruise passenger volume. But really, these responses did not change very much within four percentage points and some in just two or three percentage point change,” Haugland said. “So even though it might seem boring, it’s actually pretty remarkable that these responses are so consistent.”

Residents who live in downtown or Thane were more likely to respond with negative impacts of tourism than those who live in other parts of the city. And people who live in those areas or on Douglas said that they felt more impacts overall from tourism than people who lived in Lemon Creek, the Mendenhall Valley or Out the Road. 

More people also responded that they were negatively impacted by tourism online than through the phone survey. Haugland said this could be because people who felt impacted by tourism were more likely to take the survey. 

“Online responses were, felt more impacted by tourism. They also were twice as likely to be from downtown, you know, much less likely to be from the Valley,” Haugland said.

People are split on the city’s response to tourism. Almost half of the responses said the city isn’t doing enough to manage the impacts of tourism on the community. The other half said the city is doing enough or more than enough. 

Two pie charts showing result from a survey.
Slide from a presentation Heather Haugland from the McKinley Research Group gave to the Juneau Assembly committee of the whole on Nov. 29, 2021 about the results from a public opinion survey on tourism. (Screenshot)

Almost two-thirds of the people who responded said they support limits on the number of large cruise ships per day. When asked about what that limit should be, the top answer was five ships, then three, then four. 

Fifty-six percent of people support Norwegian Cruise Line’s plans for a new dock and 33% were opposed.

People were then asked if their support would change if certain things were incorporated into the project, like a cruise ship limit, a park and an ocean center.

Haugland said that these factors did change some people’s level of support between 20-40%.

“The number one preference would be a cap of five large ships per day in Juneau’s harbor,” Haugland said.

Lyndsey Brollini

Local News Reporter

I bring voices to my stories that have been historically underserved and underrepresented in news. I look at stories through a solutions-focused lens with a goal to benefit the community of Juneau and the state of Alaska.

Read next

Site notifications
Update notification options
Subscribe to notifications