Sunshine affects Ketchikan’s tourism industry

Ketchikan’s summer tourism season is well underway. Record low rainfall in May and warmer-than-usual temperatures had a lot OF tourists smiling. But in a place known for rain, is sunshine bad for business?

Chuck Slagle walks the dock where a few of his charter fishing boats are coming in from a morning on the water. “How was your trip?” “Great, thanks for asking.”

Tourists eat at the Fish House on June 23, 2015.
Tourists eat at the Fish House on June 23, 2015.

One customer noticed Slagle had changed out of the shorts he was wearing earlier in the day. He changed into pants to go fishing. He said a sunny day doesn’t always make for the best fishing, but it does make for a better experience.

“Sunshine makes a big difference in our business.With what we do, people going fishing. They not only have a better time when it’s not pouring down rain, they’ll also look out the cruise ship windows and fishing is more appealing to them when it’s not pouring down rain.”

Slagle also owns the Fish House, a seafood restaurant just above his fleet of charter fishing boats. He said weather affects sales at the restaurant, too. Generally, people aren’t willing to wait in line in the rain.

On a recent sunny day, the line was trailing onto the pavement.  Blake Runkel and his family from Houston were happily waiting in line for their crab lunch. “Yeah I was surprised this is a beautiful day. We lucked out. Short sleeve shirts in Alaska, that’s pretty amazing.”

The Fish House in Ketchikan.
The Fish House in Ketchikan.

His mother, Pat, booked the trip after hearing rave reviews from friends, and she was strategic about booking it this week after some reading. “It said that was the best time to come. If you could plan your trip They said May to September,  but they said the best time would be from June 15 to July 15.Weather wise I think it was basically.”

She heard a lot about the rain in Southeast and packed accordingly, but was happy to keep the ponchos aboard the Ruby Princess.

The sunshine isn’t an economic boon for everyone though.

“I’ll tell you one thing our business does increase if it’s raining.”

Karl Biggerstaff at Tongass Trading says retail sales can go up about 25 percent on a rainy day, when people are more inclined to stay indoors. Even on a sunny day though, people still shop. Tongass General Manager Chris Parks says the best weather for business is changing weather, a mix of sun and rain.

Parks adds that while weather has a noticeable effect on sales in the short term, the industry is influenced more by the overall economy in the long term.