Report: Cruise ships bring $340 million in spending to V.I. in 2011-2012 season
Published: October 15, 2012
Font size: [A] [A] [A]
The cruise lines brought an estimated $340 million in direct spending to the territory during the 2011-2012 season, the third-highest total for cruise destinations in the region, according to a recently-released analysis.
V.I. Tourism Commissioner Beverly Nicholson-Doty said the study - "Economic Contribution of Cruise Tourism to the Destination Economies," by Business Research and Economic Advisors - provides important information for the territory.
"It is critical when you're looking at your product development and marketing to get hard data," she said. "In the absence of hard data, you're oftentimes working on what one feels emotionally."
The study provides data on how cruise ship tourism contributed to the economies of 21 destinations in the region during the 2011-2012 cruise season. It was presented at the recent Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association Conference in Curacao.
Among the findings for the territory that the report highlights in its executive summary:
- The U.S. Virgin Islands had the second-highest average per passenger spending rate, at $146.70 per visit.
- The territory had the second-highest volume of onshore passenger and crew visits, with 2.1 million visits.
- The $340 million in total cruise tourism expenditures in the territory generated an estimated 6,349 jobs paying nearly $140 million in wage income during the 2011-2012 cruise year.
Nicholson-Doty said that several things struck her about the study, which collected data on 21 destinations in the region, including the U.S. Virgin Islands. Similar studies were in 2006 and 2009.
"St. Thomas, in particular, and the USVI is ranked extremely high as an important port in the region," Nicholson-Doty said. "It is also very clear from the data that there are several other destinations that are getting traction."
She said that the report highlights some areas of concern for the territory, including that St. Thomas fell from the No. 1 spot in terms of average cruise passenger spending.
"St. Maarten has exceeded us in that regard," she said.
According to the study, average cruise passenger spending per visit in the territory dropped from $193.22 per passenger in 2009 to $146.70 per passenger in 2012, while on St. Maarten, average cruise passenger spending per visit went from $147.98 in 2009 to $185.40 in 2012.
One critical factor that Nicholson-Doty said must be addressed is the length of time a cruise passenger can spend in the territory and the effect of the overall transportation infrastructure on that.
"We have been advised on many occasions that St. Thomas is a port where the cruise passenger is consistently reminded that they need to get back to the ship early," she said.
One of the things Tourism is focused on, she said, is working to facilitate the more efficient movement of cruise ship visitors, "understanding that the economic spend is critical."
Asked about the difference in opportunities for visitors to spend depending on whether their ship calls at Havensight or Crown Bay on St. Thomas, Nicholson-Doty said she believes that Crown Bay "has certainly expanded its options."
"There are more offerings in Havensight. I think that the offerings at Crown Bay have enhanced. That's a reality," she said. "I also believe the spend is not concentrated to either of those ports. I believe that the visitor that comes to St. Thomas is coming to Main Street and coming to downtown."
And that, she said, is where the issues of transportation and traffic congestion on St. Thomas come into play.
"People are oftentimes racing to get back to the ship because they're concerned about congestion," she said. "We really have to look at how we deal with those transportation issues that are impacting spending."
Nicholson-Doty said she also believes that ensuring diversity of "the product" for cruise ship passengers is important.
She is referring to retail offerings - "jewelry and perfume, but other offerings as well" - and attractions and activities, she said.
St. Thomas, she said, has an "extremely high" repeat visitor showing among cruisers.
"We always have to make sure we have fresh and new offerings, so for the repeat visitors, we have something new to intrigue them with."
- Contact Joy Blackburn at 714-9145 or e-mail email@example.com.