Cruise Ship Industry
by Elaine Williams
Offerings of overnight river trips along Columbia and Snake rivers expanding
The 500 tourists per week arriving or departing from Clarkston on cruise boats might help the Lewiston-Nez Perce County Regional Airport boost its passenger numbers.
Right now, between 30 and 40 cruise boat customers use the airport each week, said Michelle Peters, president and CEO of the tourism nonprofit Visit Lewis Clark Valley, who addressed the Asotin County Commission on Monday. As many as 120 to 150 per week are paying $120 per person for a shuttle to or from Spokane, she said.
The shuttle fee is not included in cruise fares, so Lewiston could be more economical for them even if the airfare is slightly more than Spokane.
The Lewiston airport is looking to attract travelers following the announcement that Horizon Air was pulling its Seattle and Boise flights at the end of August because they weren't full enough. Once Horizon leaves, SkyWest's Salt Lake City flights, which are doing well, will be the only commercial passenger service offered at Lewiston.
The $3 million overnight cruise boat industry along the Snake and Columbia rivers is growing, Peters said. Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic recently replaced a 62-passenger boat with one that has room for 100 passengers. And American Cruise Lines is adding a third vessel next year that is under construction - the 186-passenger American Song, which has the sleek design of European boats.
"The increase in boat traffic is really impressive," Commissioner Jim Jeffords said.
As vibrant as the cruise boat industry is in Asotin County, it could disappear entirely if the four lower-Snake River dams are breached, Peters said.
A majority of the vessels that frequent Clarkston are coastal boats.
"These guys will just take a left (on the West Coast) and go to Alaska."
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