The coming visitor season; Locally, it’s a mixed bag

Some say up, others down, some plumb don’t know

By DIMITRA LAVRAKAS
Bookings for the summer season vary from business to business here depending on what kind of business it is. Where the majority of bookings come from cruise ships, well, the numbers won’t be known until cruisers make that final payment and choose their land tour, or until the season actually hits.
Down at Pullen Creek RV Park, manager Craig Weidner said he’s had hardly any reservations so far from individuals.
“People think they don’t have to make reservations,” he said. “They see Alaska as one big open space where you can park anywhere you want.”
As for the caravans of RVers that come in, he said they’re “solid.”
“I’m fairly optimistic,” Weidner said.
Gary Danielson, White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad Vice President of marketing, said he’s still “cautiously optimistic.”
The majority of the railroad’s business comes from cruise ship bookings, said Danielson, and he can’t tell what the numbers will be yet, unless “you can rub a crystal ball.”
“We’re behind last year on individual bookings, but we’re not as far behind as we could have been considering what happened,” he said. “I still think Alaska will be a strong cruise ship destination.”
Still, he said, it’ll take a lot to make up for the 60-day void after Sept. 11.
Emily Klimek, tourism assistant at Skagway’s Convention & Visitors Bureau, said she received 78 e-mails on Monday requesting information. Generally, she said, they get the most on Mondays after people have the weekend to go on-line to search out vacation spots, and then it trickles off during the week.
The good news is Sgt. Preston’s Lodge is booked for the Buckwheat Ski Classic, said operating owner Sandy Grunow.
“We haven’t had any alarming drops or anything like that,” Grunow said. “Maybe there has been a slight drop, but not appreciably so.”
According to the numbers on the 2002 cruise ship schedule, it’s anticipated that we will get close to the same number of ships as were scheduled last year. Last year 447 should have come in, but ships were pulled or canceled leaving a total of 441 ships docked. This year 419 are scheduled to come in including two new megaships – Celebrity Cruises’s the Summit and Princess Cruises’s the Star Princess – and a new smaller ship, the Seaborn Spirit. The drop can be attributed to the loss of one of the smaller CruiseWest ships this year, because that company has had reduced bookings.
The peak day of the summer will bring us 8,394 visitors off the ships – that’s up from last year’s high of 7,590. There are nine days with a potential of more than 8,000 people. Sundays through Thursdays will be very busy (see ship schedule inserted in this edition).

NOTE: For a copy of the cruise schedule, contact the Skagway Convention and Visitor's Bureau after April 1.

Skagway
Cruise Ship Arrivals
1992 192
1993 196
1994 237
1995 313
1996 340
1997 371
1998 451
1999 423
2000 432
2001 441
2002 (scheduled) 419