SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska



What do Tourists think of Ketchikan, and how can we improve it?
By Bobbie McCreary


January 17, 2006

I just returned from a week-long business trip to Kansas City and Minneapolis and with a 2 hour lay-over in Seattle had time to peruse the Travel Section of the Border's at SeaTac...(thank goodness that construction is completed and there is something to do now!)

It seems we are starting to fall behind in the critics' opinions as a desirable visitor destination. (Excerpts of some of those comments are attached.) My conclusion as I read through these comments and then contrasted them to comments about Sitka, Skagway and Juneau is:

We still have a chance to do it right! As the extension of Berth 3 is planned and Berth 4 is contemplated, let's work together to create a really great historic district in NewTown, one that will win kudos from the critics and smiles from our residents.

And, by the way, contrary to some interesting rumors that have been racing around town...I am not,nor have I ever been affiliated with Neighborhood Assemblies Network. Nor is this organization involved in any way with the development of the NewTown Historic District Neighborhood Association.

Bobbie McCreary
E-mail: rmccreary[AT]

Ketchikan, AK - USA

About: Roberta (Bobbie) McCreary is a resident of Ketchikan's NewTown Neighborhood.


Quotes from Travel Books:

Frommer's Alaska 2006 (by Charles Wohlforth, Anchorage resident)

p.1 Introduction -The proliferation of large cruise ships continues to grow well beyond the carrying capacity of the small-town ports the ships call on. Towns are now receiving more than 10,000 visitors in a day from cruise ships. The towns worst affect are Ketchikan, Juneau and Skagway.

p. 101 Ketchikan: On the Waterfront - Today the director hoping to recreate that scene would have his work cut out for him, removing the T-shirt shops and bright street-front signs that seek to drawn in throngs of cruise passengers to buy plastic gewgaws. Not so long ago, Ketchikan was a rugged and exotic intersection of cultures built on the profits of logging Southeast's rainforest, but in a decade it has transformed itself into a tourist center, softening its rough edges while selling their charm to visitors. On summer days, the white cruise ships tower above the town like huge new buildings on the dock facing Front Street, the downtown's main drag. Each morning their gangways disgorge thousands of visitors, clogging the streets and for a few hours transforming the town into a teeming carnival. Then evening comes, the streets empty, and the cruise ships slide off quietly on the way to their next port.

p. 135 Sitka: Rich Prize of Russian Conquest - If I could only visit one Alaska town, it would probably be Sitka Somehow it has retained a friendly, authentic feel, despite the crush of thousands of visitors.

Lonely Planet Alaska (Dufresne, Penland, Root2003)

p. 124 Selling the Southeast - In the past decade, Ketchikan has undergone a dramatic transformation-one that could be used as a case study for the challenges many Southeast Alaska towns face as they try to replace their foundering resource-based economies with tourism.

Once a quintessential Alaskan logging and fishing town, Ketchikan was a workaday place where visitors could wander the docks or jaw with the locals in ramshackle waterfront bars, soaking up the culture relatively anonymously. Now Ketchikan is a quintessential Alaska tourist town, thoroughly enslaved to cruise ships

The ships disgorge their lemming-like hordes onto docks that are now nothing more than sacrifice areas full of hungry schlock shops. The locals love the paycheck, but many long for the good old days when "prostitution" meant patronizing Dolly Arthur's Creek St. brothel, not selling authentic Alaskan junk to wealthy outsiders.

It's all very disconcerting, this unfettered capitalism at its most garish. So while tourism may be a "clean" alternative to "resource development" industries, a look at today's Ketchikan might give even the most die-hard conservationists food for thought.

The Rough Guide to Alaska (Paul Whitfield.2004)

p. 79 Ketchikan and Around - On most summer days downtown Ketchikan disappears behind a white wall of cruise ships which feed up to five thousand tourists into the compact town center, affecting almost every activity you take part in and quite possibly souring your opinion or this otherwise likeable community.



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