Expanding tourism by attracting large and small cruise ships could soften the blow to the community from reduced state spending resulting from diminished oil prices, president Kyle Gray told members of the Haines Chamber of Commerce at the group’s annual meeting last month.

About 20 members attended the meeting, which replaced the group’s annual banquet.

Speaking on the state of the local economy, Gray said he was “hopefully optimistic” about opportunities for increasing business here and attracting new industry.

The past season was a strong one for tourism, he said, and low gasoline prices in the Lower 48 theoretically mean more visitors will have money to come here and those who come will have more to spend.

Yachts and small cruise ships represent an expanding market that Haines could capitalize on, Gray said. That younger visitors are seeking experiences rather than souvenirs bodes well for tour operators here, he said.

Group treasurer Thom Ely gave a financial report showing that $31,000 of the group’s $52,226 budget is derived from pull-tab income.

Executive director Debra Schnabel said she has worked to diversify the group’s membership and raise its visibility, including through weekly online surveys of members which she hopes will be used to inform decisions by the local government.

Schnabel said the group is working on revising its bylaws, including on issues of membership and voting.

Five seats on the chamber’s nine-member board are up for election in December. Those include ones held by Barbara Mulford, Patty Campbell, Heather Shade, Harry Rietze and Kathi Lapp. Nominations for open seats are due to the chamber by Nov. 18.