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One way to expand your horizons is to travel the world — which I did recently during my participation in SeaTrade Miami, the largest annual worldwide conference serving the cruise industry.
My Turn: Parnell was on the job for Alaska 032911 OPINION 9 For the Juneau Empire One way to expand your horizons is to travel the world — which I did recently during my participation in SeaTrade Miami, the largest annual worldwide conference serving the cruise industry.
Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Story last updated at 3/29/2011 - 9:11 pm

My Turn: Parnell was on the job for Alaska

One way to expand your horizons is to travel the world — which I did recently during my participation in SeaTrade Miami, the largest annual worldwide conference serving the cruise industry.

More than 10,000 international individuals participated in the event, and nearly 1,000 exhibits promoted the charm and wonders of 119 different countries. We were literally surrounded by the entire world and I ended that global tour hopeful that we can find sustainability for the Alaska tourism industry.

As a first-time attendee, I was most impressed by the commitment made by cruise destinations around the world. Alaska was surrounded by the Baltic destinations, with Germany and Italy nearby. Walking the floor, I met representatives from London to Indonesia. I drank tea from Turkey and met safari guides from Africa. Every single one worked hard to encourage cruise line executives to deploy additional ships to their amazing ports. There is no question we work in a global industry and the competition is fierce.

I was filled with pride that Alaska was able to capture the world’s attention. This was possible due the diligence of AlaskaACT and the Alaska Travel Industry Association (ATIA) and their members. And our success was profoundly due to the presence of our governor — Sean Parnell. Thank you Governor Parnell and Commerce Commissioner Susan Bell.

In an unprecedented move, event organizers scheduled Parnell to speak at the Opening Session. This opened the door for Alaska to make a huge impression — and judging by the numerous breaks in applause, the governor delivered. The world listened as Alaska spoke.

His message was brief and simple; Alaskans requested he help rebuild the visitor industry. He listened — and acted. He attended the conference last year, spoke to many executives about what could be done to improve our business climate and immediately began to deliver results.

Last year, the governor heard strong criticism about operating in Alaska. He heard how the industry was growing and the outlook was positive across the globe, except in Alaska. Rather than becoming defensive, the governor took the criticism to heart.

This year, Parnell had a different mission. In his opening remarks, he shared how Alaska has turned a corner. He spoke of implementing tax reductions and improving the regulatory environment to make Alaska a better place to operate. The world has now seen how those efforts have paid off, with the addition of more than 60,000 new cruise passengers coming to Alaska in 2012. This increase equates to total direct and indirect spending of approximately $60 million statewide.

Following the opening session, Parnell met with cruise line executives operating in Alaska. He expressed his commitment to work on behalf of Alaskans to grow the visitor industry long-term. The executives shared their admiration of the 2010 move toward the states sustainable overall marketing effort. The Legislature increased the state’s visitor marketing program by $7 million last year, which directly supported small businesses around the state, particularly those in the Interior. It represented important progress that promotes our independence from the cruise lines and a great investment for our state. I have seen firsthand that is essential we foster fiscal balance from every angle.

We should all thank the Governor for his commitment to make Alaska a more attractive cruise destination and as well as his commitment to promote the state as a premier destination for independent travelers. But the work is not done. Balance and a pro-business atmosphere are essential to continued success.

We have a world-class destination, the unprecedented support of our governor and 40,000 dedicated Alaskan workers who support the sustainable industry that is Alaska tourism. There is a world of success possible for Alaska and Alaskans if we continue to work together! I have hope.

• Johnson is the President of Wings Airways/Taku Glacier Lodge in Juneau, Alaska, a locally-owned floatplane company employing 45 Alaskans.