Enthusiastic for Tourism
By Chelsea Goucher
August 27, 2019
Are there concerns associated with tourism? Of course.
Environmental concerns are fair, but we must be vigilant not to conflate the actions of bad actors with an entire industry. This is a dishonest and divisive tactic used by extremists of all kinds; we are better than that. In this same vein, it is vital that we not twist our concerns with the quality of our own environmental regulations into disdain for the industry. This is an unfortunate misdirection of energy.
Concerns with the number of visitors coming to Ketchikan and how they are to be managed are also fair, but we would be wise to view this concern as opportunity - not only for tour operators and developers, but also for our local governments. Now is the time to re-think everything from traffic patterns to parking zones, and to utilize CPV and other funds in a way that modernizes our city and benefits locals year-round. Again, this is a challenge incumbent upon us to overcome, and we can do it without artificially "capping" or being unfriendly to an industry enamored with us.
Concerns with how impending developments will impact City and Borough sales and property tax receipts are also fair, but we really must do the hard work of thinking long-term. Yes, we have multiple governments operating in a competitive economy, but we need to leave behind unhelpful attitudes and a scarcity mindset and acknowledge that we are one community. A rising tide raises all boasts, and I do believe that any "hits" taken by either municipality will correct themselves over time... if we continue to embrace tourism into the future.
Me personally? I remember when the mill shutdown in 1997 and I watched as friends moved so their parents could seek work elsewhere. I graduate high school at a low point in Ketchikan's history: our population was way down, no one had heard of Vigor, the mineral exploration on POW was dormant, and there wasn't a lot of opportunity or activity for young people. Tourism was not talked about as if it were a "real industry."
I came back to town, found my way back to my passion for public service, and have spent a lot of time since then listening to people opine about better days, when there was more money in folks' pockets and more opportunity for our youth. Meanwhile, the tourism industry grew right under our noses - along with my love for and recognition of what it has done for Ketchikan.
I love the new eateries downtown, and returning to old favorites that have stepped up their game as competition increases. I love that we have local breweries and can purchase items made right here in Ketchikan from kelp and fire-weed and fish byproducts. I love that any day of the week I can enjoy live music, and on many weekends listen to one of four or five or more excellent local bands. I love that when I want to buy new clothing, I can stroll from store to store and choose what I like while supporting my friends and colleagues. I love waling from Berth 4 to the breakwater at Thomas Basin and back again. I love making new friends and being exposed to new ideas and cultures. I love congratulating these friends when they buy businesses or start new ones, and I love it even more when they decide to stay forever. This is how communities grow; this is why people stay.
The economic activity around tourism in this town has without question improved my quality of life by creating economies of scale that are germane to entrepreneurial success. We are a more diverse, creative, connected and healthy community thanks to tourism. From emergency medial services to shoe stores, public transportation to recreation, our community has benefited from elevated visitor numbers and what they do each summer to subsidize and support our hometown businesses and services.
Tourism is good for Ketchikan, good for business, and good for our quality of life as locals. The Chamber urges the community to come together to embrace change and the unknown; ironically, it is innovation and creativity that will bring back the good old days. In my mind, they are already here. We have been waiting a very long time for this opportunity, and we have overcome much as a community in the last 20 years. The challenges to be addressed in the next few years are nothing we cannot handle. We are so strong and should be proud. I would put money on Ketchikan's future any day!
Received August 27, 2019 - Published August 27, 2019
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