PUBLISHED: 5:24 PM on Wednesday, October 15, 2008
Cruise lines need local businesses to succeed
Editor's note: This is the second of a three part series. Look for part three in next week's CCW.

There seems to be a perception among many people in Juneau that the cruise ship companies are not interested in the people and culture of Juneau. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Illustration by Lawrence Diggs
  Author Lawrence Diggs is shown welcoming tourists onto his Discover Alaska Tours bus.
This is not to say that the interest is completely altruistic. They are, after all, businesses. However, they need local people and local businesses to succeed in order for their companies to succeed.

While the ships do a great job at entertaining their guests while on the ship, the cruise has to go someplace or the whole thing will seem rather pointless to many people. When they sell the journey they also have to sell the destination.

The local people are the destination.

Who knows Juneau better than people who live here? Who knows how to get things done better than locals? Who can bring a story of pride and passion about Juneau better than the local people?

It is in the cruise ship's interest to be able to sell this excitement to their guests. They want their guests to experience an authentic Juneau. They need partners who can make things happen. If they didn't realize this, it would be up to the locals to make them aware of it. But they are well aware of how much they need to partner with Juneauites.

Juneau residents are well positioned to create new venues for tourists to experience. When there is a fair or festival, the locals should be partnering with the cruise ship companies to bring busloads of people there. When there is no festival or fair, there should be. There should be at least one a month and they should be coordinated with market appropriate ships, their shore excursion managers and even their marketing teams to the mutual benefit of everyone involved. And every artist and craftsperson should have a booth to sell things at these festivals. Food vendors with special Juneau treats should be making money as well.

And where are the Native Alaskans and culture? Native Alaskans sharing their stories, explaining their culture and offering demonstrates of their culture, crafting and art is gold waiting to be picked up.

Many local companies in Juneau have been able to tap into this profit stream. They take people on nature walks. They show them how to take pictures of Juneau. They help them appreciate how beautiful the city is - and they make money doing it. These people have managed to partner with the cruise ship companies to sell their services.

What's needed now is more players, more people with more ideas, and more things to sell. The cruise ships and the local economy needs more venues to take people to. They need more interesting "Juneau-flavored" shopping experiences for their guests.

That could mean creating entertainment or atmosphere. That could mean more demonstrations like the artisans who blow glass on Franklin Street.

The shore excursion people need Juneau-flavored products to sell in order to make their guests happy and to make a profit. The cruise ship companies are the customers of the local economy. If you can make their customers happy, you will make them happy and that should make you happily profitable.

I live in South Dakota most of the year and I was able to land a job as an operator and guide with Discover Alaska Tours - even though I'd never been to Juneau before.

Any person in Juneau capable of getting a commercial driver's license, telling a good story while safely operating a vehicle, possessing good work habits along with a flexible personality and a positive attitude about customer service, should be able to take my job next year.

Everything I learned about Juneau came from talking to local people, reading local papers and observing life here. Any local with the aforementioned skill set could do a better job than I do. There are many shore excursion companies that also need help accomplishing their mission of good customer service for their cruise ship patrons.

Hiring locals is a better deal for the shore excursion businesses. Every year they have to recruit and train new people who don't even know the streets of Juneau. Every year they have to worry about housing these people. Every year they have to sweat whether the people they hired will complete their contracts. And then season is over by the time most of us become useful.

This is very expensive, time-consuming and inefficient for shore excursion companies. It would be much better for these companies if more local people took these jobs. And if I can come from South Dakota and make it lucrative, a local should be able to make even more money.

Every season Juneau locals leave a lot of money on the table. All they have to do is pick it up. Next week I'll share a few low cost and no cost tips to get you started.