Ketchikan newspaper embraces tourism, but Juneau media, not so much

The Juneau waterfront.


An editorial in the Ketchikan Daily News says “Bring on the opportunity” for more tourism for the First City.

Titled “More to come,” the newspaper opinion acknowledges that Ketchikan has been well known as a fishing port, a mining town, and a timber capital:

“It’s now a tourism town.

“Like it or not, it’s what the community has become.

“We like it. It’s opportunity knocking. It’s the present and the foreseeable future,” the Ketchikan Daily News wrote. The newspaper used the word “opportunity” three times in its editorial.

In Juneau, public radio’s KTOO had a different take. In a podcast that alternately mocks tourists and casts the industry in a less-than-favorable light, the reporter focuses on how little tourists pay for the privilege of landing in Juneau.

The promotion that KTOO has run for the podcast tell listeners:

“This year, cruise ship passengers outnumbered local residents in Juneau 35 to 1. That’s why the KTOO news team is making a podcast about how we got here, what it’s like to live here and what the city’s future holds in light of the industry’s explosive growth.”

“We meet two people who were there when an old mining town sold its history and transformed itself into Cruise Town.”

In April, a meeting in Juneau brought out some of the most vocal opponents of expanded tourism:

“I am wondering what the stance of all you gentleman and the people in the audience are on setting limits on the number of visitors?” asked Dennis Harris of a panel of tourism industry representatives, as quoted in the Juneau Empire. “I think we’ve already reached our capacity to offer our visitors a really wonderful, memorable experience. When are we going to set limits in this community on the number of people we have coming here in the summer?”

It’s a view that has been repeated in Juneau since the 1990s, when the number of tourists hit 600,000. Today, that number has doubled. But rather than look for ways to accommodate more visitors and ensure them a high-quality experience, Juneau seems to have its hackles up. At least if public broadcasting’s spin on it is to be believed.

Back in Ketchikan, the view from the local newspaper is more optimistic and solution-oriented:

“Fortunately for Ketchikan, the tourists’ interest is piqued by the First City.

” This past cruise ship season, 1.17 million passengers disembarked onto the community’s downtown streets, spreading out across the island in shops and on tours especially designed for their entertainment.”

The newspaper acknowledges the growing pains and pressures on infrastructure, but has an optimistic view:

“The potential is great.

“It is projected that Ketchikan will experience sizable growth in the tourism industry over the next decade, adding about another half million cruise visitors.

” The city is seeking proposals for expanding its dock space to accommodate ships, particularly the larger ones as the industry experiences a building spurt during the next few years.

“The city also is focused on upland improvements and traffic flow for efficiency.

“The city isn’t the only game in town, though. The Ward Cove Dock Group came on the scene earlier in the year. It intends to build two berths in Ward Cove for ships, first and most specifically for Norwegian Cruise Lines.

“The Ward Cove operation anticipates the first ships to be calling in the second half of summer 2020.

“This will give Ketchikan a total of six berthing opportunities.

“And, with cruise ships being the community’s biggest immediate economic opportunity outside of government, schools and the Ketchikan Medical Center, the goal should be to fill them all up. Other industries also will thrive given time.

“The visitors are coming to see the First City. The best hosts are the locals who have lived here and know about what they say. It is their stories, their experiences, that the visitors are most interested in.

“This is our town. Through local government and business owners and operators, it’s up to us to figure out how to present ourselves in a way that will sell the community to the visitors, keeping them and their acquaintances coming back to enjoy new and different experiences season after season. Or to repeat an experience that made an impression that brings them back again.

“This can be done without losing our identity and preserving our own sense of community. Paramount in achieving this is handling the increased motor vehicle traffic that busing cruise ship passengers between Ward Cove and downtown will create.”


  1. Move the capital and there will be more space for tourist. Or move the capital and thry can run off the ships and crash their economy into a overpaid statue.

    • The Ketchikan newspaper may embrace the tourism industry, but there are many residents who’ve had enough. The co-owner of the Ketchikan Daily News also happens to be a former mayor of Ketchikan. Residents are being pushed out by tourists. You can’t drive anywhere during the season without choking on tour bus gas. Places locals like to go, are all covered with tourists. They used to be mostly downtown, now they’re everywhere.

  2. Here’s betting Juneau would fall in love with tourism if we moved the Capital, as voters demanded on two occasions. It needs to happen.

    • What you don’t get, Will, is that the lunatic lefties come with the Capital. You could put the Capitol out in the woods at Willow, and in a few years Willow would be full of lunatic lefties.

      • Art, you are 100% correct I guess. As the saying goes, “party proclivity aside you best understand that staff rules the world.” The deep state!

        • Juneau used to be a beautiful little town at the foot of the mountains, with a rich goldmining history. Now it’s just a broken city run by Lefties, who’s only employment is in government. Cruise ships should bypass and just keep sailing on to Skagway.

  3. The tourists know the difference. Most tourists who have taken Alaska cruises will tell you that they loved Ketchikan. Not so much……Juneau. The former just seems friendly and Alaskan. The latter, “cool, unfriendly, and a town full of non-Alaskans……people collected from outside the state.”
    ie. government people.

    • Who are you quoting there? How many “… tourists who have taken Alaska cruises…” have you interviewed? I’m willing to bet the answer is none and you pulled that “quote” out of your nether regions. I lived in Juneau for nearly thirty years and have spent a good bit of time in Ketchikan, Sitka, and Skagway, all significant cruise ship destinations. All three of them have a significant influx of transient labor during the cruise ship season. Actually, you’ll see many of the same people you see working in Juneau or Skagway in July working in Puerto Vallarta or Mazatlan in January. There are shops and restaurants in PV owned or operated by people from Juneau. I watched the Super Bowl one year in a restaurant/bar in Ochos Altos that caters specifically to Alaskans.

      I spent over twenty years working in either the State Office Building or the Capital and most of the people I worked with other than Session staff were long time Juneau residents, many of them multi-generational Juneau residents. I imported a few when I was a hiring manager, but that is because it is so hard to find an Alaska resident that is educated and who can pee in a bottle and pass a background check.

      Since the communists, excuse me, Democrats killed the timber industry the only economy Ketchikan has other than washing each other’s clothes is tourism. Skagway barely even exists between September and May. Do a little research before you next shoot your mouth off.

      • Art, I realize that you think you know e v e r y t h i n g there is to know from labor law (even though you are not a lawyer) to Ferarris (even though you probably drive a Ford). But you don’t know squat about tourists coming to Alaska. I lived in Juneau and worked in the Capitol as an aide for many years. I also lectured on cruise ships coming to Alaska (NCL, Princess, RCCL). I’ve talked to hundreds, if not thousands, of tourists while onboard. Mostly, they preferred Ketchikan over Juneau. Reason:. Ketchikan fit the model of an Alaskan pioneer town. Charming waterfront, mid-town boardwalk, less expensive shopping, logger shows, salmon swimming the creek, and friendlier locals. Juneau doesn’t have that charm, except for the Red Dog Saloon. So, Mr. Know-it-all conservative, please be more considerate of others before you go shooting your nose to spite your face.

  4. My first reaction to this article was not “move the capital”, but, God, what a great knee-jerk reaction! My hat is off to Will Gay and Alex for coming up with this idea so quickly and informally. It would absolutely be a win-win-win. As it stands right now, Juneau is easily the most backwards capital in the United States. People often complain about how out of the way Pierre, South Dakota is and how small Carson City, Nevada is but Juneau takes the cake. Why would anyone have a state capital that is not connected to the road system. We could make the capital Anchorage and save the state bundles in politician and bureaucratic airfare. Or we would make the capital some town in the Matsu Valley like Willow tried to become. Anchorage is already crowded too. Juneau could then embrace tourism and anyone wishing to stay could easily get a job in the tourism industry. Juneau’s population could even go up.

    • Yeah, people all want to grow up to sell Tee shirts or bus tables for the minimum wage. Tourism gives you a few rich owners and a lot of poor, transient service employees. Even high skill jobs like vessel captains and aircraft pilots pay little more than the minimum wage because people will take the lousy pay to log the hours.

      As a capital city Juneau was decapitated by the Palin Administration. Last I looked only a couple of commissioners maintained a full time office there and there has been a steady erosion of the number of directors and their direct reports. Except during the session Juneau is more like a regional center than a capital city, though while it has many of the same problems, downtown Juneau is much more habitable than downtown Anchorage. I never really felt like I needed to carry in downtown Juneau, but I’d be reticent to go anywhere in Anchorage north of Northern Lights or east of Bragaw unarmed.

  5. Move the capital as far north as possible — Dead Horse. Maybe they’ll choose to go back to Portland, San Francisco, and Seattle.

  6. The funny thing is that Juneau has one of the best economies in Alaska and it isnt only Government! 2 world class mines, one of the most robust fishing fleets in the State, and a million plus visitors each year. Only a Troll would be unhappy about that!

  7. I think you guys are comparing apples to watermelon. I don’t think the distaste for tourists and the fact that Juneau is the capital have anything to do with each other. If you moved the Capital, the people who were left in Juneau would be the ones who don’t want tourists.

    • You have that almost exactly backwards; the people who don’t like tourism would follow the Capitol were it moved.

      • Ketchikan was my home town for over 27 years. I grew up there, raised our kids there until the pulp mill closed in 1997. I have been back many many times. My friends are still there and I can tell you that none of them are happy about what this little town has become. Outsiders from California have moved in with their liberal mentality, they want tourism, they want no logging or business for working men, just fluffy bs city jobs and some state. Another tour line is wanting to build yet another dock for their massive polluting ships that dump waste in the waters so people cannot go to the beaches in the summer. I don’t know who this plays to other than the tourist. They do not care anymore about the people who work and live there 365 days per year, dealing with a congested town all summer because of what we call, pukers or tourists. I can tell you what other tourists say about southeast Alaska… All they can say is how the crap trinkets and diamond and gold pushers from other countries and cities is all the same. There is no more unique Alaska….they come to our towns, make a mess, dump their pollution go away. Until another ship pops up the next day… Very sad. Tourism is fine to a point. Until it begins ousting the folks that live there with their agendas.

  8. I was born and raised in Ketchikan myself. The industry has changed k-town a lot. After the ships leave it’s a ghost town. All the shops board up their windows and doors.
    After that there’s really nothing for a sober adult to do, or for the kids to do.
    The skateboard park? That’s a joke from what I’ve seen on pictures.
    Nobody wants to use it.
    Tourism is great for the summer; if you can stand the traffic. But most of the money made from the shops goes with the workers or the owners. It doesn’t stay in Ketchikan.
    The city and burroh have got to put there differences aside, and come up with a better plan for the fall and winter after the ships have left for the year. Nuff said.

  9. Leslie actually Ketchikan had a TON of stuff for kids to do. I have 2 elementary age kids and we are never bored. The new library is amazing and offers activities for all ages (teens included), the new swimming pool is probably the best in the state and offers classes for all ages. There’s ballet, gymnastics, karate, dance, hiking, playgrounds, fishing, etc. I could go on and on. We recently left Ketchikan because of my husbands job and my kids really miss all the activities of Ketchikan.

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