Juneau Port Alaska and cruise lines agree on a five-a-day limit from 2024

Juneau, Alaska has agreed to limits that are designed to cap the number of cruise passengers coming onto land during the peak season. This is to deal with complaints from residents about the harmful effects of overtourism.

Juneau has agreed with the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) that from the beginning of the 2024 season no more than five large cruise ships call at the port on any single day, although it has not imposed any limit on the number of passengers who can disembark from those ships.

City officials claimed that the threshold of five large ships per day would provide a positive experience for the benefit of both residents and visitors – a contention with which any residents’ associations appeared to disagree – while providing “a reliable market” for the many local businesses that rely on the tourism industry, especially cruises.

The city representatives seemed keen to suppress the real nature of the dispute – which is between the conflicting interests of businesses that rely on tourism and local residents, for whom the upside is greater tax revenue for the city, but for whom the downside is more immediate and transparent.

The city’s tourism manager, Alexandra Pierce, said that “the visitor industry is vital to our local economy and it’s essential we preserve the things that make Juneau an incredible place to live and to visit”, but admitted to local media that many of the city’s most popular attractions were already overwhelmed. She said that tour managers, downtown businesses, and city officials would have to figure out new ways to manage crowds and entertain visitors.

Alaska continues to be a popular US destination and in the US was one of the first to return to the record visitor levels experienced in 2019. Juneau Port Director Carl Uchytil reported that Juneau had 1.2m cruise visitors in 2022, almost back to the levels of 2019.

This year, with the 2023 cruise season starting in mid-April, all of Alaska including Juneau, as well as the embarkation ports in Seattle and Vancouver were expecting to set new records. Vancouver expects cruise ship calls this season to rise by 8% year on year to 331 visits, while Seattle has said that 289 cruise ship calls were scheduled.

Juneau is likely to beat both of these. CLIA Alaska’s published schedule shows that between April and late October Juneau will see a total of 42 ships, with 702 scheduled port calls. Ketchikan has 649 calls scheduled, while Skagway has 500 scheduled visits. Juneau could reach 1.67m visitors in 2023, up more than 30% on recent years.

While five ships in a day are common during the season, Juneau occasionally has six or seven large cruise ships scheduled over the course of a day. The new agreement does not take effect till 2024 because cruise schedules are set well over a year in advance.