Regional cruise tourism up in a down economy

CASTRIES, Saint Lucia, October 29, 20099 – A new study has reported that cruise spending is up, despite the economic downturn, in destinations visited by the 15 cruise line-members of the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association.

Cruise tourism boosted revenues for ports and businesses in Florida, Latin America and the Caribbean in one of the gloomiest financial years since the Great Depression, according to the FCCA-commissioned study, “Economic Contribution of Cruise Tourism To The Destination Economies”, prepared by Business Research and Economic Advisors (BREA).

BREA reported that FCCA-regional cruise tourism in the 2008-2009 season (which runs from May 2008 to April 2009) generated more than US$2.2 billion in direct expenditures, 56,000 jobs and US$720 million in employee wages among the 29 destinations surveyed.

“This certainly is wonderful news, but it doesn’t surprise me,” FCCA president, Michele Paige, told association members attending the 16th Annual Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association’s Conference and Trade Show in St Lucia. “FCCA members are known for seeing opportunities — not obstacles.”

FCCA Chairman Micky Arison, who is also chairman and CEO of Carnival Corporation, agreed.

“No industry is recession-proof, but the cruise industry traditionally has been recession-resistant,” he said.

The new study analysed spending by passengers, crew members and cruise lines in destinations ranging from the Caribbean islands, Mexico, Central America and South America, said Andrew Moody, Ph.D., president of the Exton, PA-based research group.

Among BREA’s findings was that 17.56 million cruise passengers spent US$1.71 billion in 29 participating destinations. Shore excursions, buying watches and jewellery, clothing and other goods and services are what they spent their money on. 

Additionally, 3.24  million crew members spent nearly US$289 million, mostly for clothing, food and beverages, as well as jewellery, electronics, perfumes and cosmetics.

Cruise lines also spent an estimated US$279.9 million in participating destinations for port fees and taxes, utilities, navigation services and ship supplies. 

“These expenditures have a direct impact on local employment and wages,” Moody said. “Local businesses… create additional jobs and income.”

BREA-surveyed destinations included Antigua and Barbuda; Aruba; The Bahamas; Barbados; Cayman Islands; Curacao; Dominica; Dominican Republic; Grenada; Jamaica; San Juan, Puerto Rico; St. Kitts and Nevis; St Lucia; St Maarten; St Vincent and the Grenadines; Trinidad and Tobago; Turks and Caicos and US Virgin Islands in the Caribbean; Acapulco, Cabo San Lucas, Cozumel, Ensenada and Huatulco in Mexico; Belize, Costa Rica, Honduras and Nicaragua in Central America, and Cartagena, Colombia, in South America.

Paige noted that polled passengers said they enjoyed their cruises, a strong indication that they are likely to cruise again in the region and spend money.

“Establishing relationships among member lines and the public and private sectors of partner destinations was the reason we founded the FCCA,” she said.

“Never has it been more important for cruise and travel partners to link arms and share ideas. That’s the spirit behind the conference we’re attending here in St Lucia.”