SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska

Inter-Island Ferry Generates More Than $50 Million in Economic Activity Annually


February 19, 2016
Friday AM

(SitNews) Hollis, Alaska - The Inter-Island Ferry Authority (IFA) - a public ferry system providing daily service between Ketchikan and Prince of Wales Island - released a study this week showing that the ferry system was responsible for $52.2 million in economic activity in southern Southeast Alaska last year. The 12-page publication, compiled by Rain Coast Data, shows that the IFA provides a high rate of return on investment. In 2015, the system generated $104 in economic activity for each dollar of State investment. Economic activity was measured in the five following areas: tourism, seafood, medical access, retail trade, and spending by the IFA – and includes direct and secondary impacts.

jpg Inter-Island Ferry Generates More Than $50 Million in Economic Activity Annually

“We have always known that the IFA plays a significant socio-economic role in southern Southeast Alaska,” explains Dennis Watson, General Manager of the Inter-Island Ferry Authority. “However, it has not always been easy to convey this message. This publication concisely describes and calculates the economic and social impacts of daily ferry service between Prince of Wales Island and Ketchikan.”

Some other highlights of the study include the following:

  • Cost Effective Operations: Compared to other public passenger-vehicle ferries, the IFA is run very cost effectively. On average for these systems, farebox revenue covers 53% of operational costs; however the IFA has a farebox recovery rate of 85%.
  • Tourism: Visitors coming to Prince of Wales Island on the ferry spend more than $10 million on the island annually.
  • Seafood: In a typical year, IFA transports three million pounds of high value seafood, with an associated harvest value of $15 million. The business model to move this product depends on the daily, reliable, affordable service the IFA provides.
  • Medical Care: Prince of Wales residents rely on the IFA for affordable access to medical care. Medical trips accounted for 4,500 ferry trips last year. These “medical tourists” spend nearly $9 million in Ketchikan hospitals each year.
  • Ketchikan Spending: Prince of Wales residents who ride the ferry spend millions in Ketchikan each year. IFA riders spent $8 million on goods and services in Ketchikan (not counting the millions spent in the health care sector). The IFA itself spent an additional $1 million.
  • Jobs and Earnings: 320 jobs - in tourism, seafood, and transportation - and $7.1 million in workforce earnings on Prince of Wales Island are dependent on the IFA.
  • Students: In 2015 students from 13 Alaska school districts made 3,100 trips on the IFA. Being able to participate in high school activities and sports travel is especially important for rural Alaska students. The system saves school districts approximately $300,000 per year in travel costs.
  • Children and Senior Citizens: By using the ferry, students, senior citizens, and younger children have saved a combined $17 million over the price of flying since ferry operations began in 2002.

Document summary:

The Inter-Island Ferry Authority (IFA) provides daily service on a three-hour, 36-mile route between Prince of Wales Island and Ketchikan. It ferries more than 50,000 passengers and 12,000 vehicles between Hollis and Ketchikan annually. The system is more than a form of transportation - it is an economic engine for southern Southeast Alaska, generating jobs, commerce, and tourism while also increasing community well-being. In 2015, the IFA brought 3,000 tourists to Prince of Wales Island, where they spent more than $10 million on hotels, fishing expeditions, and dining - generating hundreds of summer jobs across the island. It provides a means for the seafood industry to move millions of pounds of high-quality, high- value fresh and live seafood to market, creating hundreds more jobs.

It provides access to health care for a thousand island residents who use Ketchikan’s medical services without the cost, inconvenience, or weather-related delays of flying. It shuttles workers to their jobs. It reinforces Ketchikan’s status as the regional economic hub, as Prince of Wales residents spent more than $14 million there in 2015 on groceries, goods, services, and medical care.

The Inter-Island Ferry allows for cultural and social commerce as well. Students, tribal members, and other residents use the system to participate in basketball games, totem pole raisings, trainings, college fairs, celebrations, and funerals. There were 3,100 student trips last year. This allowed students from 13 different Alaska school districts the opportunity to challenge themselves and interact with their peers. It connects residents to family, friends, and recreation.

The ferry is a critical piece of a more extensive transportation network. It provides transportation security on days when the skies are rough, and access to transportation to those who cannot afford alternative means. Nearly a quarter of the ridership last year were senior citizens and young children, who have saved a combined $17 million over the cost of flying since the system began in 2002. Its reliable arrivals and departures have enabled organizations to build their business models around this daily transportation connection. The result of the IFA’s efficient operations is farebox revenue that covers a full 85% of the ferry’s operational costs, a significant rate in the world of public transportation.

The word businesses and residents most frequently use to describe the ferry service is “invaluable.” While there are many intrinsic values of the system that cannot be measured, an analysis of the ferry’s economic impact in the seafood, healthcare, visitor, transportation, and retail sectors shows an impressive $52.2 million combined impact in Ketchikan and Prince of Wales in 2015.


On the Web:

Download: The Inter-Island Ferry Authority by the Numbers 2016


Edited by Mary Kauffman, SitNews



Source of News:

Inter-Island Ferry Authority (IFA)


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