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PUBLISHED: 1:19 PM on Wednesday, January 10, 2007
Dealing with more visitors

Maybe the only thing nicer than having company for the holidays is having them leave.

But we've got more company coming.

They're coming to dinner. And to visit. And to stay and to shop.

They are the million or more out-of-state and out-of-country visitors who now come to visit Southeast Alaska each summer.

It's no secret that tourism has grown dramatically in our home towns over the past decade. The number of people visiting Juneau alone has doubled, from a half million to more than a million, in the past decade.

This is not a bad thing.

Tourists can be easier to herd than cats or salmon. They definitely spend more money and only occasionally require more cleanup.

There are challenges in dealing with crowds.

Helicopters are noisy.

Cruise ships take up space.

Tour boat traffic can crowd our bays.

Shoppers jam our downtown streets and fill long waiting lines at our restaurants.

But given the vastness of southeast Alaska, this is relative.

Compared to down south "tourist spots," our crowds are something meager.

But an elephant in your living room is still an elephant--even if it's a little elephant.

And the realty is that as other older industries flatten or decline, this is the booming economic force knocking down our door to join us.

Tourism can be managed and should be managed.

Management need not mean hamper or destroy or even cripple either the industryas ability to make a profit, or our ability to enjoy our quality of life.

The McDowell Group in Juneau has been studying tourism in the Southeast?and our feeling about tourism?for a number of years. Their most recent survey, online at www.juneau.org, provides some reasonable insights into how those of us who live in Juneau feel about those who come to visit.

No big surprises. Something less than 10 percent of us do not like tourists. But the vast majority-more than three quarters of Juneau residents-sees at least some positive impact from tourism.

A growing number, now 40 percent, see tourism as a positive force here.

But almost half of us - a full 47 percent - believe the City and Borough need to do more to manage the impact of tourism here.

It's a two-way street. Another survey, of the tourists themselves last summer, gave us good marks, but the "wow" factor is down a bit. Not bad, just not quite the best-trip-of-a-lifetime response we're used to.

Our company is also committed to our visitors and the businesses that cater to them. This month you'll find two new publications in the Southeast for the coming season.

The 2007 Juneau Guide and Travel Planner is a partnership between the Juneau Empire and the Juneau Convention and Visitors Bureau. This 76-page magazine is mailed to interested visitors from now through the spring, and is available throughout the summer season throughout Alaska. You can get your copy free now on racks in Juneau businesses or see the online version at www.juneaualaska.com.

Even more exciting to us at the Capital City Weekly is our new 2007 Southeast Alaska Harbor Guide.

This year we are providing you a bigger 56-page boaters' guide to all of Southeast Alaska, including profiles and maps on all our Southeast harbors and communities.

You'll find copies of the 2007 Harbor Guide in area marine dealers, retailers and harbormasters, and online at www.capitalcityweekly.com.

It's going to be critical in the coming years that all of us take a proactive role in not just welcoming, but working to make tourism a win-win proposition for all of Southeast Alaska.

Leschper is general manager of the Capital City Weekly and regional advertising director for Morris Communications newspapers in Alaska. Send him an e-mail at lee.leschper@juneauempire.com.


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