JUNEAU – Alaska’s tourism industry was dealt a blow last week as the government of Canada announced the prohibition of all cruise vessels in Canadian waters through February 2022.
Many cruise ships that visit the Inside Passage are based in foreign countries, and federal law (The Passenger Service Vessel Act of 1886) requires foreign-flagged ships to dock in a foreign port at least once during its voyage.
Effectively, many large ships will be unable to visit Alaska this summer, including those operated by Holland America, Norwegian Cruise Line, and Royal Caribbean. Their absence in Alaska will cause significant harm to Southeast Alaska’s visitor industry and Alaska’s economy as a whole.
“The decision by Canada to close its border to cruise ship traffic is disappointing and unacceptable. Without the prospect of large cruise ships visiting Alaska this summer, many businesses will likely fail, doing irreparable damage to our economy,” said Rep. Dan Ortiz (I-Ketchikan). “Everyone has been anticipating a 2021 tourism season. I will be working closely with other members of the Legislature to advocate for and support the industry in whatever way we can.”
“2020 was incredibly difficult for our many businesses and neighbors that rely on cruise ship travelers to support their families,” added Rep. Andi Story (D-Juneau). “Southeast legislators are working on a solution that will allow needed economic activity and jobs while protecting the health of Alaskan and Canadian communities.”
Rep. Sara Hannan (D-Juneau) said, “With the effects on last summer’s season already catastrophic for so many workers and businesses in our communities, the announcement of Canada’s policy is just devastating. Along with my other Southeast colleagues in the Legislature, and with the help of our delegation in Washington D.C., I will persevere in every effort to make a safe 2021 cruise ship season possible.”
Prior to COVID-19, Alaska received just over 2 million visitors each year, with more than 1 million of those visitors arriving by cruise ship. The visitor industry’s economic impact is sizable: it adds over 50,000 jobs and brings in over $125.6 million in taxes and revenues, for both local and state entities. The overall economic impact is $4.5 billion.
Many communities in Southeast battled with uncertainty and difficult economic outcomes in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Although some businesses were able to adapt or hibernate for the single season, the loss of a second season would be detrimental.