SEATTLE – Big news for our region’s cruise industry: President Biden signed the Alaska Tourism Restoration Act Monday, which removes the requirement that foreign registered ships sailing between mainland America and Alaska stop at a foreign port.
Typically, cruise ships sailing from Seattle to Alaska had made their overseas stops in Canada. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Canada closed its borders to all non-essential travel.
“When Canada closed its ports … it essentially wiped out our cruise season,” said travel expert Steve Danishek, who points out that most of Seattle’s cruise business is on ships to and from Alaska.
Stephanie Jones Stebbins, Maritime’s chief executive officer for the Port of Seattle, says losing the 2020 cruise season has already cost the Puget Sound region a lot.
“That would have been about $ 26 million for the port and about $ 900 million for the community based on the economic impact lost,” said Jones Stebbins, who includes everything from the money tourists spend in restaurants and shops in the Seattle area to companies that help supply ships when they are in port.
She predicts the Port of Seattle will see around 80 cruise lines for a shortened 2021 season, potentially a quarter of what the industry generates in our region in a typical year.
Danishek warns that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention could abandon these plans if they propose new, challenging health rules when cruise ships return to sea.