Economy

Alaska tourism hit hard by recession, environmental restrictions

So, why is it that tourism in Alaska is declining by double digits? Depends on who's talking.

Few disagree that this year's tourism downturn is tied to the global recession.

But an even bigger decline in tourism is expected next year, and for that, many of the state's tourism leaders aren't blaming the economy. They say the cruise industry — the biggest player in Alaska tourism — is sending fewer ships to Alaska next year due to the taxes and environmental restrictions approved by voters three years ago. That will mean roughly 140,000 fewer cruise ship passengers for Alaska.

The debate is ongoing but one thing is certain: The cruise industry, which annually spends about $1.35 billion in Alaska, had to discount heavily to fill its ships this year and is poised to make major cuts next year. That means big financial losses for tour operators, hotels and retail businesses in Alaska.

Anchorage residents can expect to see reduced airline flights in and out of the city next year. Thanks to this year's downturn, the city is experiencing a 20 percent decline in tax revenue from hotels and motels, according to Julie Saupe, president of the Anchorage Convention & Visitors Bureau.

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