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Citing a labor shortage, Princess Cruises will close one of its lodges in Alaska

As Alaska’s tourist season heats up, Princess Cruises announced Monday that it will be closing one of its five lodges in the state this summer due to staffing shortages.

The Copper River Princess Wilderness Lodge will close on June 17, according to a brief statement provided by Princess Cruises spokesperson Negin Kamali.

It had opened May 19 for the first time in more than two years, after the COVID-19 pandemic halted major cruises to south-central Alaska until this summer.

Located a 3.5-hour drive northeast of Anchorage in the Copper Center, the lodge is a jumping-off point for guests visiting Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve, the largest national park in the United States

The 85-room lodge has mainly hosted cruise passengers on pre-arranged trips, but people traveling alone have also stayed or dined there, said Kathy Stratton of the Greater Copper Valley and Central Chamber of Commerce. home near Glennallen.

The closure will hurt hospitality options and affect some businesses a bit, she said.

“It’s always bad to see someone close because I think there’s enough business for it to be open,” she said.

The labor shortage is affecting employers of all types across the region, even federal agencies and the school district, Stratton said. The reception center has reduced its hours by about four hours a day because it is short of staff, she said.

“Some companies have been looking for employees for two years and haven’t found them,” she said.

Labor shortages have become an issue in Alaska and nationally after the pandemic led to widespread unemployment, increased government assistance and sweeping shifts in the economy, disrupting labor ties. many workers with their employers.

The leisure and hospitality industry is driving the job losses in Alaska. Many tour operators, anticipating a strong summer, entered the season fearing they would not find enough employees.

Holland America Line, a Princess Cruises sister company owned by Carnival, said on Monday that staffing shortages in the hospitality industry forced it to cancel some itineraries for a package tour of Alaska, Yukon and Denali Cruisetours, which takes visitors between Fairbanks and Dawson. City in Canada, according to Erik Elvejord, a spokesperson for Holland America.

Affected customers will receive a refund, the statement said, adding, “We appreciate their understanding of this situation which is unfortunately present throughout the hospitality industry.”

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The Copper River Princess Wilderness Lodge currently has 70 seasonal staff and six full-time staff, Kamali said in an email.

The lodge has employed about 90 people in the past, the company said.

Princess Cruises is working to “provide employment opportunities for displaced Copper River Princess Wilderness Lodge crewmates,” the statement said.

In Alaska, Princess Cruises also operates Denali Princess Wilderness Lodge and Mt. McKinley Princess Wilderness near Denali National Park and Preserve, as well as lodges in Fairbanks and Kenai.

“Passengers whose land visits are affected will have the option of accepting an alternative itinerary, rebooking for 2023, or canceling their cruise,” the Princess Cruises statement read. “Princess Cruises will be in direct contact with affected customers.”

Ronald Simpson owns a bar and inn in Copper Center, and said closing the lodge would mean less business for his bar. Lodge workers were customers, he said.

He said he was also short on staff and had to discontinue breakfasts at the inn, though he soon brought in a former Lower 48 employee to restore that service.

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Simpson said he fears the closure could be a sign that the tourist season is not going as strong as many industry players had anticipated.

He had strong bookings of tourist rooms at his hostel earlier this year. But a higher than normal number of guests canceled, possibly due to concerns about inflation, he said.

“I think people see the weekly increase in the cost of gas, that’s the most obvious thing, and it scares people away from travelling,” he said.

However, Stratton, with the chamber and visitor center, said there appear to be plenty of Europeans and South Americans visiting the area this year after pandemic restrictions halted travel to Alaska over the past few months. past two years, she said.

“We see a lot of foreign travelers this year,” she said.

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