Overwhelmed in Alaska

Brief by Central Staff

Tourism – November 1995 – Colorado Central Magazine

The feeling that your town is being overwhelmed by tourists is not unique to Central Colorado. National Public Radio recently carried a report from Juneau, Alaska, a popular destination for cruise ships. On a summer day, the city’s 30,000 people can be joined by 10,000 visitors fresh off the boat.

While many downtown merchants welcome the influx, others fear that upscale chains, catering to a more affluent clientele than the locals, will drive up rents and force the locals out.

“That kind of generic shopping atmosphere is what many visitors want,” said Barry Connally, who sells native arts, but it isn’t what he wants. “It becomes more of a mass tourist experience. It’s more like Disneyland.”

In recent years, more and more cruise tourists want outdoor recreation, and Juneau outfitters offer river rafting, bus tours, kayaking among whales, and airplane flights over ice fields.

This has led locals to complain that their favorite hiking and fishing spots, as well as their downtown, are being taken over by tourists. Said resident Leslie Cottingham, “I seriously resent the encroachment of tourists on people who live here. And I seriously resent the attitude of the city government that this city is for the tourists and not for the people who live here.”

One tourist operator pointed out that there is a tremendous demand to see forests and wildlife, and that demand will not go away. Others said the flow is a small price to pay for the money they bring in — about a fifth of Juneau’s tax revenue.