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It’s been three months since cruise lines voluntarily suspended sailings from Galveston and other homeports throughout the world immediately following the World Health Organization’s pandemic declaration.
Top questions on many people’s minds are when will cruises resume, will it be safe, and will the cruise industry recover.
Answers to all of these questions are really important for the Galveston Wharves and our community. As the fourth most popular cruise port in the U.S., we have counted on cruise business for more than half of our revenue.
Our cruise business also is a big economic driver for the region. Based on the pre-pandemic economic data below, it’s safe to say that restarting our cruise business will help jumpstart Galveston County’s economic recovery with job creation, local spending, tax revenues and hotel stays.• More than 1 million cruise passengers sailed from Galveston in 2019.• Passengers and crew accounted for $115 million in local spending annually.• Cruise-related jobs in the Galveston area totaled an estimated 3,638.• About 13 percent of Galveston hotel guests were cruise passengers.• Our cruise business generated $16.3 million in state and local sales tax revenues in 2018.News from the Cruise IndustryRegarding questions about the future of the cruise industry, I’d like to share these updates based on my conversations with cruise industry leaders.
When will cruises resume? Cruise lines will sail again when the time is right, and that timing will be based on a number of factors, including, most importantly, input from scientists and medical experts.
What have the cruise lines been doing during this suspension? Cruise lines are using this time to explore new ideas and concepts to further enhance public health protocols and policies. Additionally, they are caring for and repatriating crewmembers, which is complicated by pandemic-related travel restrictions and differing government policies.
What are cruise lines doing to enhance passenger and crew safety? Cruise lines are working closely with medical and public health professionals to evaluate and determine a range of “curb-to-curb” measures in light of our ever-changing understanding of this virus. They are addressing a wide range of measures, including enhanced boarding procedures, additional onboard public health and sanitation protocols, monitoring capabilities, quarantine arrangements and shoreside care for guests and crew.
Will our cruise business recover? I have great confidence that the cruise industry will recover from this unprecedented challenge because the cruise lines are responsible operators and because people love to cruise. They enjoy the experience, the value and the convenience.
I also believe that Galveston’s cruise business will be back stronger than ever because we draw from a huge drive-to market of repeat cruise passengers and because cruise passengers enjoy visiting our beautiful island.
Rodger Rees is port director and chief executive officer for the Galveston Wharves at the Port of Galveston.