ANCHORAGE, Alaska – A deal between Alaska’s governor and major cruise lines is intended to entice ships north by reducing the $50-per-passenger charge the state imposes on ships that enter its waters.
Republican Governor Sean Parnell proposed on Friday that the head tax be cut to $34.50, an idea he said won a warm reception from cruise executives at a meeting last week in Miami.
“We’re going to make it more competitive to come to Alaska,” he told reporters in Anchorage
Cruise lines, including Carnival Corp’s Holland American and Princess Cruises brands as well as Seattle-based Cruise West, are expected to bring about 140,000 fewer passengers to the state this year, a 14 percent drop from 2009.
But those companies and others that have announced cutbacks for 2011 are willing to restore their Alaska deployments if state lawmakers approve the tax reduction, Parnell said.
“One company offered to hold off their deployment decisions to await an outcome from the legislature,” he told reporters.
The $50-per-passenger charge was one of the products of a 2006 citizen initiative that imposed new taxes, fees and environmental regulations on the industry that dominates Alaska tourism. Four dollars of this charge will go directly into an environmental oversight program.
Cruise companies have complained bitterly about the taxes and regulations. Last year, the Alaska Cruise Association, an industry group of major cruise lines that do business in the state, filed a complaint with the U.S. District Court in Alaska challenging the head tax as unconstitutional.
The group did not challenge the $4 portion of the head tax that goes into the environmental fund.
Association President John Binkley said the CEOs of the cruise lines were willing to drop their lawsuit if the state cuts the fee to $34.50 and enacts other elements of Parnell’s proposal.
The industry group represents cruise lines operated by Carnival, Royal Caribbean Cruises and other companies.