Cruise lines slash prices to meet recession pressures

One of the clearest signs the U.S. economic tailspin is hammering Alaska's tourism industry is the steeply discounted ticket prices that cruise lines are offering this summer.

he state's major cruise operators -- which bring roughly 1 million people a year to ogle Alaska's glaciers and wildlife -- are offering tickets as much as 40 percent cheaper than they did last year.

The discounting is a reaction to some of the worst sales the cruise lines have ever encountered, said John Binkley, executive director of the Alaska Cruise Association, which advocates for the cruise lines in Alaska ports.

"It's very much uncharted territory for them," he said.

Cruise lines are just the tip of the iceberg. State economists have predicted the global recession will hit the state's tourism industry hardest -- a loss of 300 leisure and hospitality jobs in the Anchorage area alone, a bigger decline than any other industry.

Many tourism businesses statewide are already reporting fewer bookings for the summer, down anywhere from 5 percent to 35 percent, according to the Alaska Tourism Industry Association.

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