The largest cruise ships in the world are capable of carrying over 6000 passengers on each sailing, with average cruise ships carrying anywhere between 2000 and 3000 at full capacity. With travelers going ashore at ports on a daily basis, buying souvenirs, paying for excursions and access to major tourist attractions, and purchasing snacks and meals, the cruise is clearly doing its part to boost tourism – especially in parts of the world that are otherwise not known as being particularly popular vacation destinations.
Borneo, for example, has reported a 200 percent increase in visitor numbers on last year, which the Indonesian island greatly attributes to the 4000 tourists visiting from cruise ships docked in Kuching and Bintulu. Similarly, the earthquake-damaged country of Haiti, which has struggled with tourism in the past, now sees over 600,000 visitors to the northern tip of Labadee following the leasing of the land to Royal Caribbean International. For tourist attractions and destinations with turbulent histories or fragile environments, cruise ships have literally been a lifesaver for their economies.
It’s not all about struggling countries though, as governments in Hawaii and Cornwall, both popular summer vacation destinations with plenty of tourist attractions, have come forward to praise the effect the cruise industry has had on tourism in the regions. With more and more cruises expected to set sail in the coming years, and more itineraries including areas that have previously not been fully utilized in terms of cruising (Asia, for example, where the industry is expected to grow by 8 percent in the next year alone), countries are making preparations for even higher levels of cruise-based tourism.
Mumbai is one such place, with plans to build a new international cruise terminal to attract European and American tourists to India. Even some of the biggest beneficiaries of the cruise industry, such as Barbados, are gearing up to handle more visitors. It has been announced that a $300 million state-of-the-art cruise ship facility comprising of piers, retail space, and extensive parking is to be built in the Bridgetown area.
While some destinations clearly welcome cruise tourists – such as Shanghai, which hosts a tourism festival each year – others are wary of the effects the cruise industry is having. One such example is Venice, home to major Italian tourist attractions, which sees 30,000 cruise passengers descend on the city each day. The city is currently home to an anti-cruise protest group who fear that large amounts of tourists are ruining the beautiful and historic city, and that the city has become exploited.
Is the cruise industry good for tourism and the economy? Undoubtedly, yes. Cruise ships bring visitors and money into regions that would otherwise struggle. But, in certain situations, cruise companies might need to make sure that their strategies will allow these attractive destinations to remain tourist attractions for years to come.
Contributor Nicole Rebeiro is a conservationist, and when she is not away on remote islands nurturing rare species back to health, she is a keen, London-based travel journalist
Flickr photo by jimg944
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