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The Port of Galveston, fourth busiest cruise port in North America, welcomed its 1 millionth cruise passenger of the year on December 4, 2019, setting a new record for the port.
“Galveston’s growing popularity as a cruise homeport is great news for the port and the Galveston community,” said Rodger Rees, Galveston Wharves port director and CEO. “In 2018, the cruise industry generated 3,638 jobs for Galveston area residents, and cruise passengers and crew spent $115 million on local goods and services.”
As the Port of Galveston’s cruise industry grows, so does its local and state economic impact. According to a national report, Galveston’s cruise business grew by 13 percent in 2018, resulting in $1.5 billion in cruise industry direct expenditures and 26,241 jobs with total wages of $1.75 billion in Texas.
The lucky one-millionth passenger was Mark Martin and his wife, Laurie Steele Martin, from Mission Viejo, CA. The couple arrived in Galveston a day before their cruise to explore the island. After checking out of the Harbor House Hotel, the Martins headed to the cruise terminal where port officials greeted them with gifts before embarking on their 4-night Royal Caribbean cruise, receiving the VIP treatment.
Cruise business is booming
The port has seen significant growth in its cruise operations in recent years. According to a new report by Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), Galveston’s cruise industry has increased 126 percent since 2010 and is one of a few U.S. ports to see such a steady increase.
As the only cruise homeport in Texas, Galveston contributed directly to the state’s cruise industry growth. CLIA reported that Texas accounted for 6.3 percent of the cruise industry’s overall spending nationwide, 6.2 percent of the industry's total employment impact and 7.6 percent of the income impact. The state ranks third in terms of the economic benefits it receives from the global cruise industry.
Thriving cruise activity results in increases in port revenues, waterfront jobs, port parking sales tax and hotel tax revenues paid to the city, and local spending by cruise passengers and crews. According to CLIA, cruise passenger visits and crew arrivals in 2018 totaled 1.4 million, resulting in an estimated $115 million in onshore spending.
Coming soon, Cruise Terminal 3
Port officials are finalizing a long-term contract with Royal Caribbean International (RCI) for a new $100 million cruise terminal at Pier 10. Through the public-private partnership, RCI would build the terminal then lease it from the port for the initial term of 20 years with four 10-year options.
The port will be responsible for items including maintenance, parking, and improvements to the dock so that it can accommodate the larger vessels. RCI will contribute to the cost of improving the docks.
The port began its successful partnership with RCI in 2002 with the inaugural sailing of Rhapsody of the Seas. Currently, the port is home to Liberty of the Seas, the largest cruise ship in the state of Texas, and the Enchantment of the Seas.
About the Port of Galveston
Perfectly situated at the entrance to Galveston Bay and the Houston Ship Channel, Galveston Wharves has been a thriving maritime commercial center since 1825. Just 30 minutes from open seas, the 840-acre port has infrastructure and assets to serve growing cruise, cargo and commercial businesses. As the fourth busiest U.S. cruise port, it welcomed almost 1 million cruise passengers in 2018. One of the top 20 ports in the U.S and one of the busiest in Texas, the port moved 4 million tons of cargo in 2018 and has an estimated annual state economic impact of $2.3 billion.