Alaska tourism officials expecting a slow year

WASILLA — The outlook for summer tourism is grim, with fewer cruise ships hitting Alaska ports this year. Travelers that do arrive are more likely to spend their money on T-shirts and Eskimo yo-yos than on helicopter tours or other high-end excursions, industry officials say.

Alaska is likely to see 140,000 fewer cruise visitors this year than in 2009, Ron Peck, president of Alaska Travel Industry Association, told Mat-Su tourism leaders last week.

The drop is due in part to the Lower 48 recession, but Peck said it's also linked to a $50 head tax for cruise ship travelers that Alaska voters imposed in 2006.

Paul Landis, chief operating officer of Cook Inlet Region Inc.'s Alaska tourism department, is part of a group called AlaskaACT, or the Alaska Alliance for Cruise Ship Travel, which is trying to ease the taxes, pollution laws and other rules the ships now face, in hope cruise lines will send more ships to Alaska. At a Mat-Su Convention & Visitors Bureau luncheon in Wasilla on Friday, Landis and Peck encouraged local tourism businesses to partner with AlaskaACT

But just a few Valley tourism businesses rely on cruise travelers, right?

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