'Another season without tourism in Southeast Alaska is simply not an option'
Posted/Edited by MARY KAUFFMAN
April 05, 2021
The resolution calls on Congress to grant an exemption to a federal law that requires cruise ships to stop at a foreign port in order to sail to Alaska. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Canada has banned cruise ships carrying more than 100 people from sailing in Canadian waters, effectively preventing a tourism season here.
As cruising resumes elsewhere in the world, Alaska workers and businesses need the opportunity for COVID-safe commerce. SJR 9 recognizes the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s October, 2020 framework for cruise ships in U.S. waters. That order requires stringent health measures to keep US ports safe.
“With over 2 million visitors to Alaska every year, many Alaska families depend on a successful tourism season to put food on the table and a roof over their heads,” said Sen. Kiehl. “In 2019, tourism was responsible for $4 billion of economic activity in Alaska. We can’t afford to miss a second season in a row. With vaccination becoming widespread, we have the tools in place to keep Alaskans and visitors safe. That can give Alaska workers and businesses a chance.”
“Coastal Alaska's economy relies on tourism from cruise ships, which brought 90 percent of our visitors in the year before the pandemic,” said Rep. Dan Ortiz (I-Ketchikan). “Another lost season could be a fatal blow to many businesses hanging on by a thread, and I implore our federal partners to find common-sense alternatives that help businesses get back on their feet.”
“During the pandemic, Alaskans have found creative ways to keep their businesses floating and communities safe,” added Rep. Sara Hannan (D-Juneau). “The federal government also needs to get creative and find a way to bring back cruises this summer. Another season without tourism in Southeast Alaska is simply not an option.”
“Tourism is a critical piece of Alaska’s economy, generating more than $214 million in state and municipal revenue and accounting for over $2 billion in visitor spending,” said Rep. Andi Story (D-Juneau). “We need tourism to return to Alaska for our state to enter a recovery phase that allows businesses, families, and individuals to get back to work and reach solid ground again.”
SJR 9 passed on a 38-2 vote after an amendment on the Alaska House floor. The resolution will return to the Alaska Senate for final approval and will then be sent to the White House, Alaska Congressional Delegation, and other members of the 117th U.S. Congress.
U.S. Senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) on March 3rd, introduced the Alaska Tourism Recovery Act to alleviate the Passenger Vessel Services Act (PVSA) restrictions for cruise ships transporting passengers between the State of Washington and the State of Alaska. This legislation if passed would allow cruise ships to sail to Alaska without requiring that they stop in Canada, as U.S. law normally would require. U.S. Congressman Don Young (R-AK) also recently introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives.
Canada’s Interim Order No. 5 Respecting Passenger Vessel Restrictions Due to the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) prohibits cruise ships from navigating, mooring, anchoring or berthing in Canadian waters until February 28, 2022 or until the Canadian Government lifts the prohibition.
Cruise Industry News reported in mid-March that Hannah Ray, press secretary for U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski, said there was not a vote scheduled in the U.S. Senate for the Alaska Tourism Recovery Act.
According to Cruise Industry News, the Act is seen a “first step” in operating cruises in Alaska and was not part of the COVID-19 relief package recently passed which many in the cruise industry thought it would be tagged onto. The Alaska Tourism Recovery Act will thus need to be part of a larger bill, or be voted on, which could be months off.
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