Fewer ship visits to hurt Big Isle
HILO, Hawai'i — Cruise ship port-of-calls to the Big Island are expected to drop by nearly a third next year, depriving the island of hundreds of jobs and millions of dollars in tourist revenue.
The average passenger spends about $100 per day on land, buying souvenirs, going on tours and eating off the boat.
By the end of this year, 469 cruise ship calls are expected to generate upward of $94 million in visitor expenditures, fueling 1,223 jobs, the Hawai'i Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism says.
But that will have marked the high point for cruise ship traffic.
Next year, ship visits are expected to fall to 310, pushing visitor expenditures down to $61.6 million and jobs to 819.
The numbers are expected to continue declining through 2011.
Many local tour operators and vendors stand to be impacted by the downturn, said George Applegate, executive director of the Big Island Visitors Bureau.
"There are a lot of vendors downtown who depend on the cruise ship passengers for their business," said Applegate.
Hawai'i-made products and items to remember the island by are favorites of cruise customers.
Industry giant Norwegian Cruise Lines has canceled 47 visits by Pride of Hawaii and about 35 calls by Norwegian Sun in 2008.
The company is completely withdrawing the Pride of Hawaii ship, which carries an average of 2,500 people, from island service in February.
A revised Pride of Aloha schedule starting this past September has reduced that ship's Big Island calls from once a week to twice every three weeks. That's to accommodate the vessel's longer, 10- to 11-day cruises to Fanning Island.
NCL says an excess of capacity pushed prices in the Hawai'i cruise market down, forcing it to post losses. The company also blamed an increase in foreign-flagged competition entering the Hawai'i market from the West Coast for its troubles in the 50th state.
Celebrity Cruise Lines, meanwhile, has canceled eight calls by its ship, Summit.
But Applegate says the picture could brighten if other ships vie for the empty berths.
"I think there's a long list of ships that want to come here," Applegate said.