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Cruise Boom: A Community on the Cusp of Change cover image

Cruise Boom: A Community on the Cusp of Change 2023

Highly Recommended

Distributed by New Day Films, 350 North Water Street Unit 1-12, Newburgh, NY 12550; 888-367-9154
Produced by Ellen Frankenstein
Directed by Ellen Frankenstein and Atman Mehta
Streaming, 55 mins

College - General Adult
Industries; Social Problems; Travel and Tourism

Date Entered: 03/19/2024

Reviewed by Kathleen H. Flynn, Science Librarian, University at Albany

What happens when over 500,000 people visit a city of fewer than 10,000 people in the summer season? Cruise Boom reveals the benefits and challenges associated with the cruise industry in local communities, particularly those with small populations. Although cruise tourism affects many cities, the film focuses on Sitka, Alaska, a city with a population under 10,000. While fishing is a major part of their economy, cruise tourism has been a fluctuating part of their community since the 1800s. However, after the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of cruise tourists that visited each summer season more than doubled with up to 580,000 people visiting one summer season. Naturally, an influx of that many people can have significant effects on a community.

Through recordings of council meetings and interviews with local citizens, business owners, cruisers, and members of the cruise industry, the film discusses how Sitka is struggling to manage the booming industry. The main challenge they face is that a city overwhelmed by tourists can find that what once brought prosperity, can soon bring destruction. An example is how small local businesses can profit from tourism until they find themselves replaced by global businesses. Similarly, the industry can give local culture a platform and wide audience but can lose authenticity if replaced by outside businesses. It is difficult to fund repairs to the city’s infrastructure, worn out by the years and usage by visitors, when the cruise industries find ways to avoid paying U.S. taxes. Sitka’s local government, and others in a similar position, are sometimes left to consider legal methods of stemming the number of ships and tourists allowed in at a given time.

The film is a well-made and engaging look at a popular industry and its effects on communities. The interviews convey a variety of viewpoints on this complex topic and leave the audience with much to consider. The topic of the environmental impact of cruise tourism is only briefly discussed, but the film is highly recommended for a general audience or college courses on hospitality management, business administration, or public policy and management.

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