Travel Weekly's Alaska E-letter: Jan. 9, 2008

MORE THAN 300,000 FEWER CRUISE PASSENGERS would set foot in Alaska if a proposed change in federal regulations requiring all foreign-flag ships to spend less time in U.S. ports and more time in foreign ports is adopted, Alaska tourism officials said. Under current federal law, foreign-flag ships that depart from Seattle are required to spend just one day in port in British Columbia before bringing their passengers back to U.S. ports. But under a proposed change by the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection, those ships would have to spend a minimum of 48 hours in Canadian ports before heading to Alaska. If adopted, the changes could add up to more than $300 million in lost revenue for Alaska, Alaska Cruise Association President John Binkley said.

THE NEW RULES, which could go into effect in the spring, would affect cruise passengers who have already made their travel plans and would give the affected communities in Alaska little time to prepare for the economic impact of such a change. Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin is asking the Department of Homeland Security to rethink the proposal. In a letter to the customs bureau, the governor said, "Such a severe and short-notice change in itineraries could create havoc for communities, travelers and the industry." Cruise business in Alaska has grown by leaps and bounds in recent years, with the number of cruise passengers visiting this year up by more than 30% from 2002.

THE PROPOSED CRUISE SHIP LAW CHANGE comes on the heels of a report citing that more than 1.7 million tourists visited Alaska during the busy summer travel season, with approximately 1 million of those visitors coming on cruise ships, according to the Alaska Tourism Industry Association. These tourists spent a record $1.6 billion in the state this past summer, the tourism group said. The average visitor to Alaska spent about $1,000 each, on everything from tours and shopping to restaurants and attractions, the ATIA said. The summer tourist season in Alaska runs from May through September.

THE ALYESKA RESORT is in the midst of a $25 million expansion and improvement program designed to make Alaska's only ski resort more attractive to beginners. This winter, Alyeska is offering new ski classes and has created more forgiving runs to give beginning and intermediate skiers as well as snowboarders more options on the mountain. Winter room prices start at $149 for a regular room and top out at $1,500 for a Royal Suite. Winter rates are valid through May 15. The Hotel Alyeska recently upgraded all 304 rooms with new carpet, pillow-top mattresses, MP3 clock radios, Alaska Native artwork, luxury spa amenities and free Internet access. To book, call (800) 880-3880 or visit www.alyeskaresort.com.

Alaska Editor: Jorge Sidron

Phone: (973) 898-0011

[email protected]

For promotional opportunities in the E-letters, contact [email protected].

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