Jade Cook and other kids from Little Dippers Daycare sell bubbles to passengers on an incoming train during the final week of the 2001 visitor season. The Skagway Childcare Councilhas surplus Patriotic bubbles from the Fourth of July it is selling to benefit the families of those lost in the recent attacks on New York City and the Pentagon. Dippers raised $387 from visitors on the White Pass & Yukon Route platform at the depot. Only $2 each, the money will go to the New York City Police and Firemens Widows and Childrens Fund. Photo by Dimitra Lavrakas
Next years tourism season uncertain,
local officials "cautiously optimistic"
By DIMITRA LAVRAKAS
With the sound of hammers ringing on new construction and big equipment lumbering up and down a subdued Broadway, company and government officials involved in the tourism industry tried to forecast next season.
Immediately after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, Skagway lost four ships. What might have been a banner year, topping the 600,000 mark for cruise ship visitors, stalled at 588,800, said Skagway Tourism Director Buckwheat Donahue.
Everyone who made reservations on ships didnt fly in, said Donahue. They (ships) werent full like they anticipated.
Still, the numbers represented a five percent increase over last year, he said.
For next year, the figures arent firmed up yet, he said, but should be by the end of the year or sooner.
Before Sept. 11 it was looking pretty good with the news of Holland America dropping Valdez, he said. One ship will come to Skagway instead, he said. On Thursdays next year, the Statendam and the Volendam will alternate dockings, but there will be some days when they will be in port at the same time.
Celebrity will also be bringing in a new ship, the Summit next year. And Crystal Cruises recently announced an additional call for its Crystal Harmony, from seven stops in 2001 to eight in 2002.
The White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad set a record this year: 319,000, up from 303,000, said Gary Danielson, vice president of marketing.
We were just below our projected numbers even though we had a soft week the week after Sept. 11, he said.
Who knows what will happen on an international scale, Danielson added. Im cautiously optimistic for the next year. Two ships have been repositioned from Europe to Alaska and more to come. But wherever these ships are going, the spotlight will fall on the entire state. More people will want to stay close to home, and were a good market.
Marketing Alaska and Skagway is on the horizon. This week is the annual meeting of the Alaska Tourism Industry Association in Anchorage, and Donahue said a workshop dealing with the terrorist attacks effect on tourism will be added to the agenda.
But the CVB doesnt have any extra money to respond to the new situation.
We are going to go to RV shows, Donahue said. In February, the largest in Canada. If we have any extra money well research others.
The CVB budget has lost $20,000-$30,000 in bed tax revenues over the last couple of years, he said.
Running a tight fiscal ship, we have about $10,000 saved to go after rubber tire traffic, he said.
Hed like to throw some money into marketing the states Skagway gets 40 percent of its visitors from California, Texas and Florida.
If I had extra money, Id send Emily (Klimek) or myself to trade shows in each of those states, he said. Now, more than ever, its important to get Skagways name out there, so the name hangs in the back of their minds when they go on a big trip.
Miners Cache owner Shirley Mitchell said she has a lot of repeat business year after year with family members bringing their parents, children. She thinks Skagway has a good reputation with travelers because its a friendly town and the stores have a wider variety of goods to offer than other Southeast ports.
She said her numbers were up from last year.
I just hope next year doesnt present the problem people anticipate, she said. If you were in the Lower 48, you would go on a vacation where you could drive home.
Karla Ray, co-owner of the Klothes Rush and the Kone Co., also experienced a good summer.
The numbers were good, pretty similar to last year, she said. The week after Sept. 11, she said they dropped about 20 percent. We were kind of up on last September, so we were back to 2000 levels.
Ray said she noticed a slowdown because half of the people were the same who came last year.
People were all good-natured, all into thinking about being more human, she said.
Trish Magee, owner of the Nicholas House, said her numbers were also up, and looks at working in the tourism industry as something of a crapshoot.
I dont know why, but Ill take it, she said about the increase in business. Its like it always is in tourism, youre in a casino, the wheel is spinning, and it may or may not be on your number.
Looking ahead, she doesnt think next season will be as good.
Whether it will or not depends on the cruise ship industry, what it does with its ship routes, and if people will still find Alaska enough of a lure to get on a plane or behind the wheel.
Library computer use almost doubles
This years numbers at the Skagway Library have nearly doubled over last year, according to computer use sign-up sheets.
In January 2000, the number of patrons using computers for e-mail or research was at 90, and in 2001, 101. Not as big a jump as the June and July numbers: from 432 in 2000 to 713 in 2001. The September numbers from each year also reflect an increased usage: 284 to 421.
Computer use for (September) is up almost 50 percent over last year..., said Librarian Julene Fairbanks. It appears that people who would have been working the week of and the week after the terrorist attacks, had time for using the library when some of the ships canceled.
Items checked out during that period were 20 percent more for the first week, and 25 percent higher the next week, after the attacks.
Library computer usage jumped even though this year one more commercial location opened that offered Internet service, bringing the total to four in town.