The Inter-Island Ferry Authority (IFA)—a public ferry system providing daily service between Ketchikan and Prince of Wales Island—was responsible for $52.2 million in economic activity in southern Southeast Alaska last year. Economic activity was measured in the five following areas: tourism, seafood, medical access, retail trade, and spending by the IFA – and includes direct and secondary impacts. In 2015, the system generated $104 in economic activity for each dollar of State investment. Some other highlights of the study include the following:
- Cost Effective Operations: Compared to other public passenger-vehicle ferries, the IFA is run very cost effectively. On average for these systems, farebox revenue covers 53% of operational costs; however the IFA has a farebox recovery rate of 85%.
- Tourism: Visitors coming to Prince of Wales Island on the ferry spend more than $10 million on the island annually.
- Seafood: In a typical year, IFA transports three million pounds of high value seafood, with an associated harvest value of $15 million. The business model to move this product depends on the daily, reliable, affordable service the IFA provides.
- Medical Care: Prince of Wales residents rely on the IFA for affordable access to medical care. Medical trips accounted for 4,500 ferry trips last year. These “medical tourists” spend nearly $9 million in Ketchikan hospitals each year.
- Ketchikan Spending: Prince of Wales residents who ride the ferry spend millions in Ketchikan each year. IFA riders spent $8 million on goods and services in Ketchikan (not counting the millions spent in the health care sector). The IFA itself spent an additional $1 million.
- Jobs and Earnings: 320 jobs – in tourism, seafood, and transportation – and $7.1 million in workforce earnings on Prince of Wales Island are dependent on the IFA.
- Students: In 2015 students from 13 Alaska school districts made 3,100 trips on the IFA. Being able to participate in high school activities and sports travel is especially important for rural Alaska students. The system saves school districts approximately $300,000 per year in travel costs.
- Children and Senior Citizens: By using the ferry, students, senior citizens, and younger children have saved a combined $17 million over the price of flying since ferry operations began in 2002.