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By Rodger Rees, Galveston Wharves Port Director and CEO
What a momentous month in the port’s history. We opened a world-class cruise terminal and welcomed two state-of-the-art cruise ships, Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas and Norwegian’s Prima. These events cement our port’s ranking as a major, growing U.S. cruise homeport and Galveston’s future as top tourist destination.
Made possible through a $125 million public-private partnership, this stunning terminal is forecast to create 800 new jobs, $1.4 billion in local business services revenue, and $5.6 million in state and local taxes – a portion of which goes to our city.
I want to thank Royal Caribbean and Ceres for partnering with the port to make this possible. The port contributed $22 million for pier repairs, site work, utilities and port-operated cruise parking. This is a great example of how important it is for our self-funding port to conserve its revenues to reinvest in improvements to grow our port and stimulate the regional economy.
There were doubters when COVID caused delays after the project was announced in 2019, but we all kept the faith. Thank you to Royal Caribbean for your commitment to this project and for believing in Galveston during a challenging time for the cruise industry and ports across the U.S.
This new cruise terminal and the addition of these first-class cruise ships are generating tremendous excitement for both Galveston as a cruise port and vacation destination. Gauging from the huge positive response on the port’s social media and the turnout for the terminal ribbon cutting this week, cruise vacationers and community members support the direction we’re heading.
As the only cruise homeport in Texas, we draw more than 1 million cruise guests a year from a 30-million population drive-to market. I agree with Michael Bayley, Royal Caribbean International president and CEO, who said recently that this terminal and ship take family vacations in Texas to a whole new level.
Next year is forecast to be a record year in the port’s 2-decade history as a cruise homeport. We expect 362 sailings and a record number of cruise guests. In addition to the Allure, we’ll welcome the Norwegian Cruise Line Prima and the Carnival Jubilee, a brand new, LNG-powered ship.
As a result, we’re forecasting $58.7 million in total revenues in 2023, of which $40.55 million would be generated by our cruise business.
Galvestonians may ask, “What does this mean for me?” It means that, as a self-sustaining, citizen-owned entity, the port will be able to continue to fulfill its mission to generate and reinvest port revenues to benefit the Galveston community with economic growth, jobs and sales tax revenues. Our strategic master plan is guiding how we do that.
Since I joined the port in 2018, I’ve made port financial success, economic growth and responsible stewardship of these citizen-owned assets my top priority. I greatly appreciate the support of the community, steady guidance from our Wharves Board of Trustees and investments that the world’s top cruise lines are making in Galveston.