The Inter-Island Ferry Authority (IFA)—a public ferry system providing daily service between Prince of Wales Island and Ketchikan—released a study today showing that the ferry system was responsible for $46.4 million in economic activity in southern Southeast Alaska last year. The analyis shows that the IFA provides a high rate of return on investment. In 2019, the system generated $70 in economic activity for each dollar of State investment. 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.
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 other systems, farebox revenue covers 59% of operational costs. The IFA has a farebox recovery rate of 79%.
- Tourism: Visitors coming to Prince of Wales Island on the ferry spend $11 million on the island annually.
- Seafood: In a typical year, IFA transports two million pounds of high value seafood, with an associated value of $10 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 at least 12% of all ferry trips last year. These “medical tourists” spend $9 million in Ketchikan hospitals and medical offices each year.
- Ketchikan Spending: Prince of Wales residents who ride the ferry spend millions of dollars 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: 508 jobs – in tourism, seafood, health care, and transportation – and $19 million in associated workforce earnings on Prince of Wales Island and Ketchikan are dependent on the IFA, when the multiple effect is included.
- Students: In 2019 students from 12 Alaska school districts made 3,100 trips on the IFA. Being able to participate in school activities and sports travel is especially important for rural Alaska students. The system saves school districts approximately $337,000 per year in travel costs.
- Children and Senior Citizens: By using the ferry, students, senior citizens, and younger children have saved a combined $19.3 million over the price of flying since ferry operations began in 2002.