April 5, 2012 | Vol. 42, No. 14

‘Backroads Alaska’ campaign aims to entice more cruise ships to Haines

Haines Borough Tourism Director Tanya Carlson last week said the new “Backroads Alaska” campaign aims to bring additional cruise ships to the Chilkat Valley by 2013.

“The whole idea came up about two years ago from Bart Henderson here in the community, Chilkat Guides, and John Dunlap out of Sitka, with Allen Marine Tours,” Carlson said. “They were trying to come up with a way to get more cruise traffic to our smaller communities or what is traditionally known as second-tier ports.”

Carlson, Dunlap, Henderson, Jason Gaffney of Alaska Mountain Guides and Tonia Rioux of Sitka recently promoted “Backroads Alaska” to cruise lines such as Carnival, Holland America, Norwegian, Prestige, Princess and Royal Caribbean.

Carlson said Norwegian and Princess showed the most interest following presentations from the Haines and Sitka partnership in Miami and Seattle last month.

“Our port’s only being able to handle one to two ships at a time really offers the cruise lines and their guests an exclusive experience, rather than having to go to a port with five other cruise ships, with thousands of people in the port, shoulder to shoulder,” she said.

Carlson said Icy Strait Point had planned to participate in “Backroads Alaska,” but withdrew “at the last minute, literally at the 11th hour.”

“We weren’t sure what to expect,” Carlson said. “Part of the reason Icy Strait pulled out is because they didn’t think that it was going to go anywhere. However, we were met with surprised, I think, interest in this concept.”

She said the campaign would include setting up separate websites for the cruise lines and general public. Carlson noted Icy Strait Point might rejoin the effort.

“We’re certainly not looking to replace the main cruise ports; we could never do that, and we don’t want to become those big cruise ports,” she said. “We want to work with the cruise lines to develop our ports, but keep what we have.”