Published on : Friday, July 31, 2020
Alaska’s cruise industry started getting bigger in the 1990s and by 2017, it was fetching $202 million in Ketchikan’s economy every summer — more than 90% of which was acquired from tourist spending.
Ketchikan anticipated more than a million visitors this summer, many of them supposed to arrive at a newly built dock that juts out into the frigid waters of Ward Cove, the site of the town’s old pulp mill.
However, now hit by novel corona virus, the town has witnessed a global shutdown of travel, tourism and, especially, cruise ships, which were envisioned as mass incubators and carriers of the virus.
Many local businesses in the town are on the brink of collapse, and many are depending on the new port to generate much-needed tourist dollars.
John Binkley, one of the principal owners of the port project, said that the town’s tourism collapse resulting from the pandemic is “unprecedented”.
Binkley, whose family runs five-generation-old riverboat business said, “We’ve operated our family tourism business for 70 years, and never missed a trip. But this virus is going to stop it.”
The Ward Cove project, a joint venture with Norwegian Cruise Line, also faces opposition from environmentalists and many locals opine that it would damage overtaxed infrastructure and threaten the cove’s marine life.