The cruise rally organized by the Galveston International Longshoremen’s Association on Wednesday delivered a clear message: cruising equals jobs for Galveston.
More than 120 longshoremen, cruise workers and community leaders turned out with signs to show their support for bringing back safe, sustainable cruising. We hope that the message influences decision-makers at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control to not extend the “No Sail” order past the current termination date of October 31, 2020. The order has been in place since March.
The issue boils down to three points:
- Galveston’s cruise industry is critical for our regional and state economies.
- The cruise industry and Galveston Wharves are finalizing plans and procedures for safe, sustainable cruising.
- Now that we have a better understanding of the COVID-19 virus, we can work together to begin a phased resumption of cruising. It’s time!
LOCAL ECONOMY NEEDS THE BOOST
Look at the economic benefits that we saw in recent years and consider the impact these losses have on our families and local businesses:
- A record 1 million-plus cruise passengers to 2019
- $115 million in local spending
- 3,638 cruise-related Galveston area jobs
- An estimated 13 percent of Galveston hotel guests are cruise passengers
- $16.3 million in state and local sales tax revenue in 2018
Galveston County unemployment has climbed to almost 10 percent. The sooner we can get cruising going again, the sooner people can get back to work.
As the fourth most popular cruise port in North America, the Port of Galveston relies on cruising for more than half of its revenues. Fortunately, we’ve weathered the cruise suspension well so far. We saved for this rainy day, managed expenses and focused on generating additional revenues from our cargo and lay ship businesses.
SAFE, SUSTAINABLE CRUISING
There is good news on the horizon.
Cruising is gradually resuming in Europe and other parts of the world with strict protocols that are proving effective. Since the end of June, there have been more than 175 successful sailings onboard more than 20 cruise ships carrying a combined total of over 110,000 passengers.
Last month, members of the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) announced that they had agreed to adopt a set of core elements to pave the path to resume cruising from U.S. ports.
These measures include 100-percent testing for passengers and crew prior to embarkation—making the cruise industry the first in the travel and tourism sector to make such a commitment—as well as other measures, such as physical distancing and face mask requirements, ventilation strategies, and strict protocols for passengers who engage in shore excursions.
These measures are encouraging to me because they were informed by the work and recommendations of leading scientists and health experts. The cruise industry took a big risk engaging these people because they knew that their recommendations would likely be both expensive and logistically challenging. In doing so, they have shown that they are willing and able to tackle these challenges head on, with no expense spared.
In addition, the Galveston Wharves will invest about $100,000 in improvements intended to reduce the spread of the virus at its two cruise terminals. Additions include touchless bathroom fixtures, plexiglass shields in customer service areas, and enhanced air handling systems.
I firmly believe that with these measures in place, and with the continued guidance of health officials and outside experts, we can gradually and responsibly bring the cruise industry back to Galveston.