Juneau residents can weigh in on how the city will use money from cruise visitors

The American Constellation is docked near downtown on Thursday, July 15, 2021, in Juneau. (Rashah McChesney/KTOO)

The Juneau City Manager’s office has released its recommendations for how to use the money that’s expected to come from this year’s cruise ship visitors. Residents have until March 4 to weigh in on those suggestions.

Juneau gets money from cruise passengers through three different fees: $5 per passenger from the state’s commercial passenger vessel fee; $3 from a port development fee and $5 from the city’s marine passenger fee.

This year, the city is estimating that about 1 million passengers will come to Juneau, generating about $13.8 million in passenger fees.

Some of the suggestions include installing refillable water bottle stations downtown and funding visitor services. Juneau Tourism Manager Alexandra Pierce said that means hiring crossing guards, beefing up security and restroom maintenance for some of Juneau’s docks.

“That’s a significant funding increase because the Coast Guard issued an additional security requirement that cost quite a bit more money to implement,” Pierce said.

The city is also carrying a negative passenger fee fund balance of $3.2 million into this fiscal year. Pierce said that negative balance isn’t something that usually happens.

“Typically, we like to have a little bit of money left over, but we had two years with no visitation and then very limited visitation for which we needed to still supply some of the services that we always do and so that’s where the negative balance came from,” Pierce said.

The services she’s referring to are city departments like police, ambulances and visitor information. The City Manager’s office is suggesting they use some of the passenger fee proceeds to repay the negative balance. 

Over the course of a normal summer, Juneau sees about 1.2 million cruise ship passengers from large ships. In 2021, with tourism and the cruise industry still reeling from the pandemic, only about 125,000 of those passengers made it to the city. Pierce said for the next fiscal year, they budgeted for fewer passengers than a pre-pandemic year, but still more than Juneau saw last season.

“With some nervousness around industry recovery and the possibility of another variant, there’s a lot of uncertainty right now,” Pierce said. “But we also recognize that people are returning to travel and that we probably will see a pretty robust season this year.”

Pierce said they expect every ship currently on the schedule will still come, but questions remain about how full those ships will be.

People can submit comments on the recommendations to Alexandra Pierce by mailing them to the City Manager’s Office at 155 S. Seward Street, Juneau, Alaska 99801 or via email.

Bridget Dowd

Local News Reporter

I keep tabs on what’s happening in Juneau’s classrooms for the families they serve and the people who work in them. My goal is to shine a light on both stories of success and the cracks that need to be filled, because I believe a good education is the basis of a strong community.

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