Well howdy, long time no see. I was on such a roll blogging, and I truly appreciated all the comments I was receiving, and then that darn work thing started getting in the way. I plan on continuing my Employee Journey series soon, but wanted to give everyone an update about the upcoming 2009 Alaska summer. The last 3 weeks have seen some pretty major changes.
I previously spoke about the downward trend in bookings in the cruising industry, specifically with my information working for Princess Cruises. I'll be honest with you, things were really bad. Maybe worse than I let on. For example, my lodge was considering cutting its workforce by about 33% because the guests simply weren't booking. There was some more bad news this past week. Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines announced that they would not be sending their ship, Serenade of the Seas, to Alaska in 2010. One can only assume this is a decision based largely on poor sales in 2009, without great hope for a rebound in 2010. This means an estimated 42,000 fewer people coming to Alaska, specifically the port cities and Anchorage. Not good news if you are looking for a future seasonal position in Southeast Alaska this year or next. This is truly a blow to Alaska's summer tourism season.
Now for some good news. Many companies, including my own, are not taking this downturn standing still. About 4 weeks ago Princess started a large promotion on Alaska cruise tours. We believed that people still wanted to come to Alaska; they were just unsure about our economic futures and afraid to commit to an Alaskan package. These promotions have been received with unanticipated enthusiasm, proving we were right. People really do want to come to Alaska. Shortly after the promotion began, Princess had its largest single booking day in company history, including its largest Alaska booking day. In the weeks that followed we have seen very strong bookings continue, to a level now where we are bringing back many of the positions we were considering eliminating just a month ago. Truly great news for any of us associated with the tourism industry in Alaska. And I truly mean all of us, not just Princess. The recent surge in bookings shows that there is still a strong interest in Alaska, and given a little break in prices, people couldn't wait to go Way Up North, as Johnny Horton famously sang. North to Alaska, They're goin North, the Rush is On. (I think I just dated myself. If you don't know what I am talking about, Netflix North to Alaska, starring John Wayne)
So what does this all mean about the upcoming season? It means the people are coming to Alaska as we all hoped they would be. I still think the total number of cruise passengers to Alaska, usually around a million, will be a little down. But not as low as some might think. I do think we will see less spending by these guests though. Perhaps more fish n chips dinners as opposed to king crab. So if you are a server or bartender, I fear your tips may be a little leaner than previous years. And gift shop and retail spending will probably follow suit. I think a lot of the MyCoolworks crowd works as guides or tour operators. I think tour sales will go down as well on the higher priced tours, and you might see strong sales of the less expensive tours like kennel tours and horse back riding. Just a hunch.
While the future is still muddy, I think there are positive things ahead for Alaska's tourism industry. And the outlook is definitely better than it was a month or two ago. Good luck with your summer job search, and I hope to see you all in Alaska some time.