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Congressman Don Young Sends Letter to Biden Administration Urging Relief for the Alaska Tourism Industry, Collaboration on 2021 Cruise Season

Washington, D.C. Today, Alaska Congressman Don Young sent a letter to Jeffrey Zients, Counselor to President Biden, urging the Administration to work with Alaska’s tourism sector, which continues to suffer from COVID-19’s impacts on travel. Additionally, Congressman Young is calling for collaboration with the Administration in light of Canada’s announcement that their ports will remain closed to cruise vessel traffic until 2022. Click here to read the full letter.

Excerpts from the letter:

“Managing the pandemic requires tough choices, which I have experienced firsthand, but we must not allow the pandemic and resulting federal regulations to deny people of their fundamental right to earn a living when there are safe ways for them to continue to work. Currently, cruise operators, and Alaskan industry stakeholders are working to address and implement requirements set under the Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) Conditional Sail Order and are awaiting additional technical guidance with which they intend to fully comply.  In addition, Canada announced their ports will remain closed to large cruise vessel traffic until February 28, 2022. The uncertain timeframe for the issuance of further CDC technical guidance, and the continued closure of Canadians ports jeopardize the 2021 Alaskan cruise season.

As a result, I request the Administration’s support and coordination with federal, state, and international bodies, including the CDC, to engage with cruise line operators and the Canadian Government to prioritize the resumption of large cruise ship operations that are vital to the livelihood of the thousands of Alaskans employed by the industry as well as the economic health of the state.

Prior to the pandemic, Alaska had become a success story by growing a robust tourism economy that supports 1 in 10 Alaskan jobs. Small communities across Alaska enjoy a strong seasonal tourist and visitor industry, and this activity supports small businesses, local governments, and Alaska Native entities. Yearly visitors have grown from 1.5 million in 2010 to 2.2 million in 2019 and that number was expected to climb in 2020 and 2021. Alaska’s tourism season peak occurs during the summer cruise season, when 60% of Alaska’s yearly visitors arrive by large cruise ship on itineraries that transit from Washington State, Oregon, or California to Alaska, by way of Canada between May and September.”

“When considering the impacts of a second consecutive lost cruise season, the Native Village of Hoonah, Alaska, and the Huna Totem Corporation (HTC) are an example of the mutually beneficial relationship between the cruise industry and the Alaskan communities. The Native Village of Hoonah is home to roughly 760 residents, and it is located at the entrance of the Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve. The HTC, located near Hoonah, is a village corporation organized under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act with approximately 1,450 Alaska Native shareholders with ties to Hoonah and the Glacier Bay area. Hoonah is not connected by a road system, runs largely on diesel power, and has limited economic opportunity. HTC’s wholly owned subsidiary, Icy Strait Point (ISP), operates a private port that is a premier cruise ship destination. Eighty percent of Hoonah’s local tax base comes from cruise ship tourism and the HTC employs 230 people in season with nearly 80% being local and Alaska Native hires.

For the 2020 season, Hoonah had anticipated 220 ship calls, roughly 450,000 passengers and $3.6 million in fees and taxes to the village. Across Alaska there are dozens of other communities and Alaskan Native entities that are similarly situated to Hoonah. In keeping with the Biden Administration’s laudable commitment to prioritizing indigenous and historically disadvantaged communities, it is imperative that federal government inaction not compound the pandemic’s impacts and that the federal government dedicate time and attention to working with the industry to safely resume operations.”

Click here to read the full letter.

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