Cruise Boom

An Alaskan town grapples with an explosive increase in cruise ship tourism
Year Released
Film Length(s)
55 mins
Closed captioning available
Remote video URL


A small Alaskan town braces for a rapid expansion of cruise ship tourism, pushing residents to grapple with benefits, impacts and what they can control. A portrait of a community on the cusp of change in the face of the global tourism industry.

Featured review

"A provocative tool for thinking about the hard, prickly issues surrounding cruise ship tourism, how to unpack them and determine what good collective solutions may be. The film is useful to students and to places looking at similar challenges to see how this community grappled with a “Cruise Boom” and the unanswered questions that still remain."
Seleni Matus
Executive Director, International Institute of Tourism Studies, George Washington University


In a small Alaskan island town a large public cruise ship dock is twice rejected by voters. A local business builds and expands a private dock with the help of a large global cruise ship corporation. Some are elated by the economic opportunity, others feel it threatens the very heart of the community.

Nestled between glacial mountains and an island studded sea, Sitka, Alaska is home of the Lingít Aaní (Tlingit ) and a large small boat family fishery. No stranger to boom and bust economies, a once thriving pulp mill closed in Sitka years ago. Cruise Boom is a portrait of a town dealing with the possibilities and perils of global tourism. This 55 minute documentary asks who benefits from tourism, how much tourism is enough, and what it means to be a visitor.


"Honest and thought provoking, Cruse Boom, with its focus on the transformation of a small town into a tourist destination, is a glimpse of a future I hope can be avoided in my community."
Robert Hodson
Steering Committee Organizer,
"Cruise Boom" addresses the conflicts and contradictions that local people face when the global tourism industry arrives at their doorstep, or in this case, on their shores. This film unpacks the complicated choices that one community in Alaska is making to balance the economic opportunities tourism can provide with the desire to sustain healthy communities and the environment.”
Adam Kaul
Professor of Anthropology, Augustana College and Co-Editor, "Tourists and Tourism, A Reader "
“A film that educates, inspires dialogue, and helps generate meaningful solutions for communities.“
Gah Kith Tin, Alana Peterson
Executive Director, Spruce Root, Inc.
"Cruise Boom shows how politics, economic systems and issues of commerce are experienced by people. It’s rare to look at big questions through the lens of people living their daily life and seeing where that daily life intersects with global systems."
Anna Lee Hirschi
Writer and Political Science PhD Candidate
"Cruise Boom raises critical questions about who truly benefits, the threshold of sustainable tourism, and the essence of hospitality in the face of a changing world. Highly Recommended."
J. Zimmerman
Video Librarian

Director Commentary

This is not a film I intended or wanted to make.

I’ve made this island town, of Sitka, Alaska home for over 25 years and covered a lot of topics in Alaska and outside, from grief and healing to teens and border crossings, but tourism is not one that drew me. I was baited and provoked to think about it with lines like “You have the skills to show the place before the Cruise Boom, to document and reflect on the growth that will drastically change the community."

I took the bait, but we started out making Cruise Boom, as shorts, like we did with a series called “14 Miles" (see Then we realized there were two things we wanted to cover, that couldn’t be done in a 2-5 minute film: show a passage of time and portray a place within that passage. We ended up filming for over a year, creating a documentary where the town, not individuals are the character, the protagonist.

We want Cruise Boom to be useful in the classroom and with communities, talking about globalization, boom and bust economies, community self-determination, balancing the need for economic opportunity with maintaining the health and well-being of the environment and the community. The documentary also raises questions about what “good tourism,” is, who benefits from the cruise ship industry and how the travel experience can work for both visitors and locals.

Features and Languages

Film Features

  • Closed Captioning

Film/Audio Languages

  • English

Subtitle/Caption Languages

  • English

Promotional Material

Promotional Stills

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