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Alaska set to limit daily number of cruise ship passengers that can visit Juneau

Cruise fans hoping to explore Alaska’s capital, Juneau, may have to fight for permission to disembark and set foot on land, under a new deal between the city and major cruise lines cruise ships that sail there.

The agreement between Juneau and Cruise Lines International Association in Alaska (CLIA), finalized last week, aims to limit the number of daily cruise passengers that can arrive in Juneau to 16,000 Sunday through Friday and 12,000 on Saturday, effective 2026.

The measure aims to limit the congestion and wear and tear that tourists can cause to a city. Visitors to Juneau skyrocketed to a record 1.6 million last year, after the pandemic kept the numbers down for two years. Other popular cities have taken similar measures to limit tourists and their impact on residents’ daily lives. For example, Venice, Italy, in April became the first city in the world to charging day-trippers a fee just to enter on peak days.

Alaska’s new agreement is designed to cap visitor numbers roughly where they are now.

“The cruise industry is vital to our local economy, and we must improve our infrastructure and increase our visitation capacity to create an exceptional customer experience and reduce impacts on residents,” Alexandra Pierce, director of the tourism industry in Juneau. “With this agreement, we are committing to a cap to manage our busiest days and meeting annually to ensure our visitor numbers remain sustainable.”

CLIA, the cruise line association, applauded the measure, calling the agreement “a well-balanced and thoughtful approach to making Juneau a great place to live and visit.”

“Direct and ongoing dialogue with local communities is the best way to jointly self-regulate to preserve the exceptional experiences of residents and visitors while providing a predictable market for the many local businesses that rely on the cruise industry,” CLIA said in a statement. CBS MoneyWatch.

In Alaska, residents complain that record numbers of visitors are contributing to bad traffic and increasing noise pollution when they tour glaciers by helicopter. On the other hand, many local businesses depend on the cruise industry and the constant flow of visitors it provides, the city of Juneau acknowledged in a statement.

A cruise ship departs from downtown Juneau, June 7, 2023, along the Gastineau Canal, Alaska.

Becky Bohrer / AP

Cruise seasons have also been extended from early April to late October, giving permanent residents little respite from the presence of tourists.

Under a separate agreement, only five large ships are allowed per day during the current cruise season.

Pierce said other projects in the works would also likely reduce the impact of tourists on the city. They include installing a gondola in the city’s ski area, upgrading the city center sea promenade and increasing visitor capacity at the Mendenhall Glacier recreation area.

City leaders are “trying to balance the needs of our residents, the needs of our economy, the needs of future opportunities for people to stay in our community,” she said.

The agreement, however, has its skeptics. Cruise industry critic Karla Hart says the new measure is not enough to curb unsustainable tourism levels. “It feels like we are being run again, and the expansion will continue and time will still pass,” she said, according to the Associated Press.

Hart is behind a local ballot proposal that would prohibit ships with at least 250 passengers from stopping in Juneau on Saturday or July 4.

—The Associated Press contributed to this report

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