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Adventure Travel

The Cruise Industry’s Economic Impact – It’s Not Peanuts

When COVID-19 brought the world to a halt in early spring countless industries were impacted.  It’s not a stretch to say that among the hardest hit were travel, tourism and hospitality.  Hospitality covers a wide range of industries: restaurants, bars, cafes, hotels, even theme and amusement parks.  The cruise industry impacts all these business segments and more.  A cruise ship sailing from a port means people have traveled there, either by car or plane.  Many arrive a few days early or stay a few days after their cruise (what the industry refers to as “pre and post”) which has a significant impact on local businesses.  Hotels, bars, cafes, shops, restaurants, car rentals and taxi/ride-sharing all benefit from the cruise industry.  Those are the obvious beneficiaries of this booming industry, but the not-so-obvious and equally important industries are the countless supply chains the industry relies on to make the magic happen.

Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), the world’s largest cruise industry trade association regularly provides updates on the state of the industry.  A 2018 independent study commissioned by the organization determined that the industry carried 28.5 million passengers, contributing $50.24 billion globally in wages and salaries, providing 1.1+ million FTE jobs with the total worldwide output at $150 billion.

On November 19, USA Today reported: “In 2019, the cruise industry’s contribution to the U.S. economy was on the rise, according to a new economic report put out by Cruise Lines International Association, the leading industry organization.  But in 2020, facing an estimated $32 billion loss, the industry will contribute less than half of what it did last year.”  In terms of its impact to the U.S. economy, USA Today reported: “Cruising contributed $55 billion to the American economy in 2019, up 5.3% from 2018, according to the CLIA report.”  The numbers are staggering, and they represent real livelihoods, real people, and real lives.

Crew that work on cruise ships delivering exceptional guest experiences do so because it provides opportunities not available to them at home.  They work 10-hour days, 7-days a week for 8-10 months, but those long hours allow them to provide for immediate and extended family at home.  There are countless stories of crewmembers who have bought homes for themselves, their parents and grandparents.  They send their children and siblings to school, some private, and these children are able to pursue higher education.  It’s a cycle of opportunity and growth that keeps on giving.

Destinations around the world rely heavily on ships that bring guests to their destinations.  This year has been filled with countless heartbreaking stories of entire families employed by, or in some way dependent on, cruise tourism who’ve lost their livelihoods.  College educations put on hold, home purchases scrapped, businesses shuttered.  The human toll is real.

It’s difficult to overstate how important the cruise industry is to countless people around the world, and while we understand the significance of the current global health crisis, we should be careful not to demonize one specific segment of the tourism ecosystem.

With the news that approved vaccines are starting to be distributed we’re all anxiously awaiting 2021.  Our collective hope is that as the new year unfolds, some measure of “normal” will gradually return to our lives and with it, our ability to once again take to the seas to explore the world.  We are committed to supporting the economic recovery of the many people who rely on this industry for their lives.

This post was written by cruise industry expert, Shannon Mckee, founder of Access Cruise Inc. Access Cruise Inc is a Miami based cruise marketing and sales consulting group, specializing in product and business development within the cruise industry.

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