Alaskan Juneau takes action: Negotiating daily passenger limits amidst surge in cruise ship traffic

The discussion on the impact of Cruise Tourism is not new or unique to Bonaire. Photo: ABC Online Media

KRALENDIJK- Discussions regarding the influx of cruise ship passengers to destinations are not new, and the issue has been a lively and ongoing debate in Bonaire, particularly in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The MPB/UPB Executive Council even proposed limiting the number of cruise ships to one per day, while the PDB/M21/Vrolijk coalition leaned towards restricting the number of passengers per ship per day. However, after some initial discussion, little has been heard on the topic in recent months, despite the island regularly hosting two increasingly large ships during the high season from December to April each year.

The resistance to over-tourism caused by cruise ship passengers is not unique to Bonaire and is a global concern. Many popular cruise destinations worldwide are exploring ways to mitigate the impact of cruise tourism. In Alaska, three popular cruise destinations, including Juneau, are taking concrete steps to address congestion in relatively small cities.

Juneau is currently negotiating with cruise lines to establish a daily passenger limit in response to a record-breaking influx of 1.6 million visitors in the previous season. While specific numbers have yet to be finalized, the city and Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) have agreed to cap the number of ships at five per day for 2024. The focus is on reducing passenger numbers, with Saturdays targeted as the least-trafficked day.

Juneau’s Tourism Manager, Alix Pierce, emphasized the significance of this preliminary agreement as a step in the right direction. Ongoing discussions include addressing issues such as “hot berthing”* and improving downtown congestion to enhance the visitor experience and resident life.

Broader trend

This initiative aligns with a broader trend among Alaskan cities, with Sitka and Bar Harbor also grappling with managing cruise ship tourism while preserving their unique character and quality of life. As Juneau navigates these challenges, the city aims to strike a balance between welcoming visitors and protecting its environment and community.

*”Hot berthing” refers to the brief docking of a cruise ship for only a few hours, after which it is immediately replaced by another ship, in order to utilize limited docking spaces as efficiently as possible.

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