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Jesse Robert Zaugg, 34, died June 9, 2018, in a vehicle accident on Seward Highway outside of Anchorage. He was born Aug.
2/24/2018
Going for the gold

It takes as much, if not more, effort to sustain a success as to realize it in the first place.

The Winter Olympic Games winding up at the end of this week is a perfect example. Athletes who won gold will have to work even harder before the next games to hold onto it. If they don’t, the medal will be presented to the competition.

Alaska set a record in 2017 with 1.3 million cruise ship passengers visiting here. The cruise industry is anticipating 19 percent growth over the next two years, according to John Binkley, president of Cruise Lines International Association.

For Ketchikan and other communities with a cruise industry, that means increased revenue to both the public and private sector. It means a growing economy.

To maintain that growth, effort can not cease.

State legislators filed legislation this week opening the door wider for potentially increasing the number of passengers coming to Alaska.

House Bill 383 (the Senate version is 110) would allow Alaska’s tourism businesses to promote Alaska as a travel destination as members of a “Travel Alaska Board.” It also would allow the board’s members to create a funding mechanism to pay for marketing Alaska.

These bills have come about because of the state’s multi-billion-dollar budget deficit, which has resulted in a dramatic decrease in tourism marketing dollars.

The state’s tourism marketing dropped from $16 million in fiscal 2014 to $1.5 million in fiscal 2017 — more than a $14 million decrease.

Plus, the Alaska Tourism Marketing Board is scheduled to sunset at the end of June.

A new board funded by tourism businesses, similarly to how the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute is paid for by seafood processors and fishermen, is the proposal.

The board would control the assessments, being permitted to set, increase, decrease or eliminate them. The assessments, according to the legislation, could range between .25 and 2 percent of total gross revenue of the various sectors of the tourism industry.

Currently, according to state figures, every dollar spent on tourism marketing reaps $58 in visitor spending and $2.84 in state and local taxes.

With 2018 expected to exceed the record-breaking year of 2017 in the number of cruise ship passengers, increased marketing is a way for the second-largest industry in the state to help grow Alaska’s economy.

Then 2019 is anticipated to be even better numerically than 2018.

These numbers reflect an increase of $137.5 million in annual passenger spending, according to the cruise line association.

That means instead of 33 ships coming into Alaska, there will be 34. And instead of 497 voyages, there will be 519. The number of ships will increase to 37 and 567 voyages in 2019.

The biggest increase in passengers is expected to be between 2018 and 2019, going from 1,165,500 to 1,310,000.

The tourism board also would be marketing for visitors to Alaska who come by means other than cruise ships. For example, those who fly in, drive up the Alaska Highway or ride through on the Alaska Marine Highway System. With increased funding toward marketing Alaska, the revenue projections for the entire tourism industry would be even higher.

Alaska has what it takes to be a medal-winner in the tourism industry — mountains, waterways, wildlife, historical towns and culture. But it must stay focused on the gold.