Three years ago, Icy Strait Point was an experiment-in-progress, with well-wishers and competitors holding their breaths to see how the new tourist attraction would fare. Now, the region's first dedicated cruise ship port seems to have proven itself to just about everyone-the number of vessels putting in for the day is now more than twice what it was the first two years.
"2006 was our first year to mature a little bit and 2007 is the year we are going to stabilize and really become a mature investment," said Bob Wysocki, president and CEO of Huna Totem Corp., the village ANCSA corporation and the majority owner of Icy Strait Point.
Billing itself as an opportunity to experience the "real Alaska," Icy Strait Point offers a variety of ways for tourists to interact with wildlife and the forest-by boat, ATV, tram, bicycle, tour bus, nature trail-and starting this year-by a mile-long zip line that at 60 mph hangs riders in harnesses 1,300 feet above the forest and offers an exhilarating eagle-eye view from the mountainside down to the beach.
The main buildings are renovated cannery buildings going back nearly 100 years-Icy Strait Point was once the home of one of the world's most productive salmon canneries. These are now the buildings that house the gift shops, museums and restaurants, all open while a ship is in port.
BAILING OUT HOONAH
Hoonah, 50 miles west of Juneau on Chichagof Island, is the largest Tlingit village in Southeast Alaska with about 900 residents. Extensive logging once took place outside town, but that industry has been in steep decline. Fishing, another mainstay of the community, had not grown nearly enough to make up for the declines in the logging industry during the 1990s.
For that reason, Huna Totem invested more than $20 million in refurbishing buildings, constructing others and designing and constructing attractions at the historic cannery at Icy Strait Point, which lies about a 1 1/2 miles down the road from town. The goal was to participate in the burgeoning cruise ship business in Southeast and more specifically to provide shareholder employment.
On that score, Icy Strait Point has been spectacularly successful. An October 2006 study from the University of Alaska's Institute of Social and Economic Research (ISER) titled "Nature- Based Tourism in Southeast Alaska: Results from 2005 and 2006 Field Study" peg Icy Strait Point as Hoonah's largest local employer. During the summer tourist season, 124 employees work three...