Alaska Tourism Restoration Act Signed Into Law
Creates Critical Opportunities for Alaska’s Struggling Tourism Industry
Today U.S. Senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan, and Congressman Don Young, (all R-AK) participated in a White House ceremony this afternoon as the President signed into law their legislation, H.R. 1318, the Alaska Tourism Restoration Act (ATRA). Their bill, which is strongly supported by Alaskans, provides cruise ships transporting passengers between the State of Washington and the State of Alaska a temporary fix under the Passenger Vessel Services Act (PVSA). Due to the Canadian prohibition on passenger vessels traveling through Canadian waters, large cruise ships sailing to Alaska would not have been able to sail to Alaska this summer as the PVSA requires a stop in a foreign country. The return of large cruise ships to Alaska is critical to provide economic opportunity for communities who rely on tourism.
Click here for high resolution photos of the ceremony.
Click here for a press conference held with the Alaska Delegation following the ceremony.
“For over a year and a half many Alaskan communities who rely solely on tourism have been completely cut off from business due to COVID-19 restrictions. The Alaska Delegation has worked for months to try to find opportunities to provide a safe path forward for Alaskans—to help salvage what is left of the 2021 tourism season. Together, with the support of so many Alaskans, there is now a light at the end of a long, dark tunnel,” said Senator Murkowski. “It was an honor to be at the White House today to witness the Alaska Tourism Restoration Act being signed into law by the President. As a result of this bill, multiple cruise lines have already resumed ticket sales and Alaskan stakeholders and business owners can officially plan for the remainder of the 2021 season with some level of confidence and certainty. The journey to this point has been a challenge, but knowing the opportunities this bill will provide Alaskans makes all our hard work well worth the fight. We’re ready to spread the word that it is full steam ahead for the Alaska tourism season.”
“Hundreds of Alaska’s small business owners, who have put their savings, their hopes and their dreams into their businesses, were on the brink of ruin as a result of the pandemic and the fact that our short cruise ship season was about to be canceled again,” said Senator Sullivan. “Alaska’s congressional delegation has been working for months on a solution. The bill that President Biden signed today will at long last bring our small business owners hope. I want to thank my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, in both chambers, for working with us to help Alaskans in need. This summer will not be the robust cruise ship season we have had in previous years, or was forecasted this year before the pandemic hit, but there will be ships, and there will be people, and that is excellent for Alaska.”
“Against tough odds, our Delegation got it done! I want to thank President Biden for signing the Alaska Tourism Restoration Act into law. Today truly is a great day for the State of Alaska and our communities in Southeast. Alaska's tourism economy depends on the summer cruise season. Until now, families in Southeast have been kept awake at night from stress, driven by the uncertainty surrounding the upcoming season. With the President's signature on our bill, Canada's port closure – which prevented cruise lines from being compliant with the PVSA – will no longer prevent our mom-and-pop businesses from doing what they do best: welcoming tourists, growing our economy, and keeping Alaska the world-class destination that it is. Today's bill enactment comes at a critical time. Infections are down, mask mandates are being relaxed, and over 60% of the adult population has received at least one dose of the vaccine. In the very near future, the CDC will issue public health guidance so that cruise passengers from far and wide can safely experience everything our state has to offer. We now have a path forward for cruises, and I am confident that Alaskans will all do their part to ensure a safe and prosperous season. Tickets are being sold, itineraries have been created, and very soon, families will be making lifelong memories in the Last Frontier,” said Congressman Young. “To those who will be visiting our state this summer, I say 'welcome to Alaska; we are so glad to finally see you!'”
- Following Senate passage, Congressman Don Young worked with House Leadership to bring the legislation to the floor this week. On May 20, ATRA passed the U.S. House of Representatives.
- On May 13, ATRA passed the U.S. Senate.
- On May 13, Representative Young sent a letter to DHS Secretary Mayorkas urging him to collaborate with Canadian authorities to accept technical stops in Canadian waters to satisfy the Passenger Vessel Services Act’s requirements.
- On May 11, Senators Murkowski and Sullivan wrote letters urging Canada to reconsider the prohibition for passenger vessels in Canada’s ports and waters, and calling on the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security to accept technical stops in Canada to satisfy the Passenger Vessel Services Act (PVSA), which currently restricts cruise ships transportation passengers between the State of Washington and the State of Alaska.
- On April 30, Senators Murkowski and Sullivan spoke on the Senate floor urging their Senate colleagues to consider and pass S. 593, the Alaska Tourism Restoration Act.
- On March 26, the Alaska Congressional Delegation sent a letter with colleagues to Jeffrey Zients, the White House COVID Response Coordinator, urging the Biden administration to be more transparent and timely in their efforts to develop guidance for the resumption of operations for the cruise ship industry.
- On March 19, both Senators met in person with Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Anchorage, AK and discussed Canada’s border closures and sent a follow up letter on March 24, reiterating and emphasizing the need to work together to address Canada’s border closures.
- On March 5, Senators Murkowski and Sullivan introduced the Alaska Tourism Restoration Act to alleviate the PVSA restrictions for cruise ships transporting passengers between the State of Washington and the State of Alaska.
- On February 24, Congressman Don Young introduced the Alaska Tourism Recovery Act in the House of Representatives.
- On February 13, Senators Murkowski and Sullivan and Congressman Don Young (R-AK) penned 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 4, 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.
- On February 4, Congressman Young sent a letter to Jeffrey Zients, Counselor to President Biden, urging the Administration to work with Alaska’s tourism sector, which continues to suffer from COVID-19’s impacts on travel. Additionally, Congressman Young is calling for collaboration with the Administration in light of Canada’s announcement that their ports will remain closed to cruise vessel traffic until 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 Canada 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.