Patti Mackey, executive director of the Ketchikan Visitors Bureau, is cautiously optimistic about Ketchikan’s 2013 tourist season.
In a presentation to the Ketchikan Chamber of Commerce Tuesday, Mackey painted a picture of a town on the verge of attaining or even exceeding levels of prosperity not seen since 2008.
That picture shows a significant decrease five years ago in most, if not all, of the critical measures of the health of the tourism industry after the nationwide economic collapse. The number of cruise ships visiting Ketchikan and the amount of tourists both saw a big drop after 2008, but Mackey says they are poised to spring back in a big way this year.
She made sure to address the lingering effects of the recession, though.
“Some of the impacts we have to deal with, of course the recession and folks’ concerns about the general state of the affairs in the country since of course the majority of our visitors are domestic travelers,” said Mackey. “People’s travels are one of those luxuries that get put on hold when they’re worried about paying the mortgage or their kids’ educations.”
Still, the KVB expects 40 ships to visit Ketchikan this year. There will be about 512 port calls, an increase of 10 percent from last year. The number of tourists on those ships will be roughly what they were in 2008, according to Mackey, clocking in at almost 950,000.
In some measures, the tourism economy in Ketchikan is still lagging, however. Retail sales, including jewelry, are still down, as are profits from hotels.
Mackey also told the Chamber she expects the new KVB building on the dock to be open Sunday, in time for the start of the main tourist season. While a couple of ships have already visited, the official start of the tourist season is generally the first week in May.