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According to an economic impact study released at the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association Conference and Trade Show in Curacao at the beginning of October, direct expenditures by the cruise lines in the participating 21 Caribbean and Latin American destinations reached nearly $2 billion from May 2011 through April 2012. In addition, the industry generated 45,225 jobs and $728 million in employee wages.
The study by Business Research and Economic Advisors was fueled by 28,822 passenger surveys and 7,915 crew surveys conducted on Carnival Cruise Lines, Celebrity Cruises, Disney Cruise Line, Holland America Line, Norwegian Cruise Line, Princess Cruises, P&O Cruises and Royal Caribbean International, along with information from the Caribbean Tourism Organization.
The 15.44 million cruise passengers spent $1.48 billion in the region, consistently the most popular cruise area in the world, with average per passenger spending $95.92. Approximately 52 percent purchased shore excursions, generating $270 million. Watches and jewelry led the way at $583 million; clothing accounted for $158 million, food and beverages for $106.5 million and local crafts and souvenirs generated $87 million.
The 2.7 million crew members spend was more than $261 million, with average spending very similar to that of the passengers at $96.98. The cruise lines themselves spent $246.9 million on port fees and taxes, utilities, navigation services and ship supplies.
The Bahamas led all Caribbean destinations with $394 million in cruise tourism expenditures. It also led all destinations with just over 4.4 million onshore passenger and crew visits. This was more than double volume of the next highest destination, the U.S. Virgin Islands. These expenditures, in turn, generated an estimated 8,668 jobs paying $146 million in wage income during the 2011/2012 cruise year.
St. Maarten had the highest average per passenger onshore expenditure of $185 per passenger visit. It also had the second highest average crew expenditure of $135 per visit. With an estimated 1.9 million onshore passenger and crew visits, St. Maarten benefited $356 million in total cruise tourism expenditures, the second highest level among the 21 destinations. These expenditures generated total employment of 8,123 residents and wage income of $160 million.
The U.S. Virgin Islands had the third highest level of direct cruise sector expenditures with $340 million in spending. It also had the second highest average per passenger spending rate of just over $147 per passenger visit. In addition, the U.S. Virgin Islands had the second highest volume of onshore passenger and crew visits with 2.1 million visits. The $340 million in cruise tourism expenditures generated an estimated 6,349 jobs paying nearly $140 million in wage income during the 2011/2012 cruise year.
Puerto Rico benefited from $187 million in total cruise tourism expenditures which, in turn, generated nearly 5,000 jobs and $70.3 million in wages during the 2011/2012 cruise year. The economic impacts of cruise tourism in Puerto Rico were generated by both homeport and port-of-call visits. In fact, Puerto Rico led the Caribbean in passenger embarkations during the 2011/2012 cruise year with over 490,000 embarkations. The island destination ranked fifth in passenger and crew onshore visits with 1.3 million visits.
The Cayman Islands had the fourth highest number of passenger and crew onshore visits with 1.5 million visits. Combined with an average per passenger onshore expenditure of $93.70 per visit and an average crew expenditure of $57.50 per visits, the Cayman Islands ranked fifth in direct cruise tourism expenditures. The $158 million in cruise tourism spending in the Cayman Islands generated 3,547 total jobs and $66.6 million in wage income during the 2011/2012 cruise year.
The study and similar ones, taken at two year intervals, not only track economic benefits to the region, they are used by the destinations to improve their satisfaction rates and profits from the industry.