Sullivan, Murkowski Speak on Alaska Tourism Restoration Act
WASHINGTON—U.S. Senators Dan Sullivan and Lisa Murkowski (both R-Alaska) spoke on the Senate floor to urge their Senate colleagues to consider and pass S. 593, the Alaska Tourism Restoration Act (ATRA). Their bill works to provide a path forward for communities who rely on tourism by temporarily alleviating the Passenger Vessel Services Act (PVSA) restrictions for cruise ships transporting passengers between the State of Washington and the State of Alaska. The bill would allow cruise ships to sail to Alaska without requiring that they stop in Canada, as U.S. law normally would require. U.S. Congressman Don Young (R-AK) introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives.
- “Senator Murkowski did a good job of explaining some of the dramatic economic challenges facing our state, small businesses, families, and workers, by the thousands, who are really hurting right now because we lost the tourism season last year due to the pandemic,” said Senator Sullivan. “We are on the verge of possibly losing another one, which could be devastating. And that's the purpose of our legislation, to focus on lifting the challenge and bringing relief so that we can bring tourism back to Alaska. We're open for business.”
- “To our fellow Alaskans, my message is: Don't give up,” said Senator Sullivan. “Right now, here on the Senate floor…there's actually been momentum and movement, and I'm confident we can get there. Even with the CDC…we are starting to see progress with them. We are going to continue to fight, and continue to try to move this. Do not give up, Alaska, on our summer tourism season. We haven't. To the contrary, we've made progress. We're not there yet.”
- “Finally, to our Canadian friends, we are going to continue to work with all of you as well,” said Senator Sullivan. “You can be a part of the solution to help Alaska and Canada in a cooperative spirit, as you're seeing on the Senate floor…I anticipate and look forward to working with my friend and colleague, the minister of transportation, and others in the Canadian government, to try to make sure we can get this spirit of cooperation that will benefit our state, our country, and your country.”
- “We’ve probably taken a bigger hit than any state in the country. We saw a 32 percent drop in revenue last year, 10 percent higher than any other state in the nation. We are starting to see a light at the end of the tunnel, and that’s good, but we are also facing the prospect of another devastating tourist season. Back home right now people are not talking about the season for 2021 coming up. The motto is, ‘Get through to 2022’. That is an awful way to be approaching our situation,” said Senator Murkowski.
- “Senator Sullivan and I have been working on behalf of hundreds of small businesses that rely on this essential income just so they can scrape by for another year. A lot of people don’t think about cruise ships as being an essential activity during a pandemic. But let me tell you, in our state where so much of our economy is just based on tourism, it’s an imperative; it is jobs, it is livelihoods, and it really is what allows our small communities to keep their doors open,” said Senator Murkowski.
- “In 2019, before the pandemic was upon us, we were looking at 1.33 million tourist that came to the state of Alaska by way of cruise ship. That is pretty significant. In 2020, there were 48 passengers. That is 48 passengers, not 48,000. So in other words you had an economy that was looking pretty strong and pretty good and it absolutely went into a freefall. Normally the tourism industry generates more than $214 million in state and municipal revenue, more than $1.4 billion in payroll, and $2.2 billion in visitor spending. And the prospect was doing nothing but going up until we were hit in 2020. The vastly diminished cruise season contributed to statewide unemployment rate rising from 6.2 percent to 11 percent. Southeast Alaska, greater unemployment, which increased from 4.7 percent to 11.3 percent—17 percent of all jobs in the region impacted,” said Senator Murkowski.
- On March 5, Senators Murkowski and Sullivan introduced the Alaska Tourism Restoration Act.
- On February 13, Senators Murkowski and Sullivan and Congressman Young sent a letter to Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, urging him to work with the Alaska Congressional Delegation on COVID-19 travel restrictions in an effort to limit the negative impacts to Alaskan and Canadian constituents.
- On February 5, the Alaska Congressional Delegation reacted to an announcement by the Canadian Minister of Transport regarding two new Interim Orders which ban pleasure craft in Canadian Arctic waters and cruise vessels in all Canadian waters until February 28, 2022.
- In October 2020, in an effort to address US-Canada border crossing issues created by the COVID-19 pandemic, Senators Murkowski, Sullivan, Congressman Young, and Governor Mike Dunleavy (R-AK) sent a letter to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to raise specific issues severely impacting Alaskans due to border crossing restrictions due to COVID-1. In their letter, the Alaska Delegation highlighted specific, persisting challenges impacting the health and safety of Alaskans and proposed reasonable solutions.
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