Study: Charleston cruise biz to inject $37M, 400 jobs into economy

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - A study released Monday indicates the Port of Charleston's cruise business will bring in more that $30 million and support more than 400 jobs in the Lowcountry in 2010.

The researchers analyzed economic contributions of all scheduled cruise activity in 2010, which includes 16 port-of-calls and 53 embarkations from Charleston.

According to the research team, the study showed cruise business would create more than $37 million, 400 jobs, more than $16 million in earnings and another $3.5 million in tax revenue.

"Where most communities are only shedding jobs, Charleston is adding them," said Dr. John Crotts, one of the researchers.  "Each time a cruise ship is at the dock, there is a local boost of more than $323,000."

The study showed restaurants and hotels will see positive impacts from the cruise business, but the industry that will see the largest benefit will be transportation, namely ground shuttles and the port industry.

The retail industry and wholesale trade businesses were also noted as top earners in the study.

"Cruising contributes to the local community beyond the traditional tourism impacts," said Crotts.  "A large portion of passenger and crew spending goes to support resident-oriented businesses, helping to keep them viable for our neighborhoods."

Cruises also serve as a vital marketing tool for the region, noted Crotts.

"Based on income and other demographics, the typical cruise passenger in Charleston is a great match with the local tourism industry's target visitor," said Crotts. "Nearly half are first-time visitors to Charleston and demonstrate a high likelihood to visit again and recommend the city as a vacation destination to family and friends."

Based on passenger surveys in November 2009, two-thirds of passengers on a port-of-call visit will leave the vessel and actively contribute to the local economy. Half of those who leave the vessel during a call will go on organized excursions to plantations, museums, historic houses and other attractions, while the other half will explore the City on their own.

The surveys measured spending behavior by visitors, crew members, and cruise lines when they visit Charleston.

"The far-reaching economic benefits of the cruise business are clear," said Jim Newsome, president and CEO of the SCSPA. "We will continue to serve the cruise business in a way that generates these economic contributions while also considering the interests of our neighbors."

Last year, the SCSPA hired a planning firm to develop a master plan for the cruise terminal and the surrounding port property. The Ports Authority is expected to release the initial planning concept for a revamped, and financially viable, terminal space on Feb. 9.

The study, conducted by Crotts and Dr. Frank Hefner, was commissioned by the SC State Ports Authority.

The entire economic impact study is available online at