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Dunleavy administration gauges impact of lost tourism on Alaskan businesses

Published: Apr. 27, 2021 at 4:19 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - Due to COVID-19, the cruise industry remains closed to Alaska, cutting off a large part of its summer tourism.

In response to the crisis, Governor Dunleavy has proposed allocating $150 million in federal aid to the tourism sector of the economy.

According to Lieutenant Governor Kevin Meyer, “We’re going around the state talking to businesses that are impacted by the cruise ships to see how badly they’re impacted.”

This journey brought Meyer to Fairbanks on Tuesday. “This morning we met with the Fairbanks Chamber, and then after that we met with the Fairbanks Visitors Bureau and they invited a lot of the businesses that are directly tied to tourism.”

Ultimately, the legislature will have the final say on how the funds will be spent, to which Meyer said “and that’s going to be interesting because we won’t even get the rules until May 10th on how we can use this money, the rules from the federal government, and then of course the legislature is set to adjourn on May 19th, so they’re going to have to hustle on that one, and that’ll be a challenge.”

Regions like Southeast Alaska rely more heavily on the cruise industry than Fairbanks, which Meyer says has a well-diversified economy. “It will have to be kind of a tier system in the sense that some businesses being impacted 100% probably should get more relief than other businesses that are maybe only 50 or 60% impacted.”

Governor Dunleavy also traveled to Hyder, where he offered vaccinations to the neighboring Canadian community of Stewart. “I thought that was just a really goodwill showing that ‘Hey, the border is open on our side, please open the border on your side,’” Meyer said.

Meyer remains cautiously optimistic that the Alaskan Interior will see a cruise season, if a limited one.

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