Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy said the state is “contemplating a lawsuit,” if the U.S. Centers for Disease Control fails to act soon to ease sailing restrictions and allow for a summer cruise season in Alaska. Florida has filed a lawsuit over the shutdown at its ports.
“They need to make a decision this week,” Dunleavy said, so that both the cruise lines and vacationers have enough time to plan and prepare for summer voyages in Alaska.
At stake is $3 billion in gross domestic product in 2020 and 2021 for Alaska’s summer tourism economy.
“We do believe this injury to Alaska is going to be very severe,” Dunleavy said Tuesday during a lunchtime speech to the Greater Fairbanks Chamber of Commerce, which was broadcast remotely to members.
Dunleavy told chamber members that Alaska is considering a relief package for hospitality businesses that have experienced economic losses and hardship from the shutdown.
“Mom and pop businesses and mid-size businesses would likely get some assistance,” he said, from anticipated federal relief dollars related to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The CDC has kept cruise ships docked since 2020 because of concerns over Covid-19 and has yet to announce when they may resume sailing. More than one million cruise ship passengers visited Alaska in 2019, with 160,000 adding land excursions to the state’s Interior.
Last week, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced a lawsuit against the federal government and the CDC to allow cruise ships to resume sailing. “The CDC has locked down this industry for over a year, this is not reasonable, this is not rational,” DeSantis said.
If the big-cruise ship season is canceled for a second summer, Dunleavy said he is concerned that some cruise lines will not return again to Alaska or any U.S. ports, instead moving operations to Europe, the Caribbean and Asia.
Dunleavy noted that Alaska health officials can assure health-safety protocols for the hospitality industry within the state, as it has done for the fishing, mining and oil and gas industries.
“Alaska is going to be a great destination, and if we can get the cruise ship issues dealt with by the CDC, it’s going to be a huge shot in the arm, not just for coastal Alaska but as you know going up the railbelt and going to Fairbanks.”
Contact political report Linda F. Hersey at 459-7575 or follow her at twitter.com/FDNMpolitics.