PORT CANAVERAL, Florida — Thanks to recent research, Port Canaveral has a clear answer for anyone wondering if the cruise industry has rebounded from fighting the pandemic.
What you need to know
- A Business Research & Economic Advisors study published Wednesday shows that Port Canaveral more than doubled its economic impact in Florida compared to 2018.
- The study found that the cruise industry accounts for around 66% of the total impact
- Chief Executive Captain John Murray said the port is also in the early stages of adding a new cruise terminal
According to a study published on Wednesday by Business Research & Economic Advisors (BREA), the port has an economic impact on the state of Florida of $6.1 – up from approximately $3 billion in 2018, when the company last assessed.
The study found that Port Canaveral also donated $189.5 million in state and local taxes.
“Direct Expenditure or Direct Production of the Cruise Segment is $2 Billion – as I mentioned, providing just over 17,000 jobs and nearly $760 million in salaries, with revenues up 54%, 31% and 47% respectively compared to the study 2019 based on fiscal year 2018,” said BREA Director Rich Higginson during a presentation to the Port Canaveral Commission. “The cruise’s total output was approximately $4 billion, representing 67% of total production and providing nearly 31,000 jobs and $1.4 billion in salaries.”
Following the presentation, Port Canaveral CEO Captain John Murray said the growth was due to perseverance and creativity during the pandemic when cruise ships were not sailing.
“We’re seeing the benefits of this now in bigger ships, more ships, newer ships, new brands,” Murray said. “Port Canaveral is discovered in many ways by several other cruise line brands that have not been here before, and that only adds to our success.”
During his presentation, Murray pointed to 551 ship calls in the fiscal year 2023 between October 2022 and April 2023, equivalent to approximately 4 million passengers.
He also highlighted some of the new cruise ships that have recently started sailing and those that are about to arrive. Marella Discovery’s first cruise was on May 7, and Princess Cruises will begin operating six- and eight-day cruises from November 2024 to April 2025.
“It’s exciting to finally have Princess here in port,” Murray said during his presentation. “It’s a brand that is often requested by cruise guests who have not been here and had to fly elsewhere to join the ship. So we’re excited to have this product here. It’s a little different from some of our other offerings.”
Murray also provided some new details about the upcoming new cruise terminal. He said that unlike some cruise terminals that only operate with one cruise line, such as Cruise Terminal 3, this new terminal will be open to multiple cruise lines.
“I think we’re going to operate it more like Cruise Terminal 5 and Cruise Terminal 10, where it’s a facility for everyone,” Murray said. “We have large ship terminals, and this will be a large ship terminal, and we want to make sure that it is used by large ships and not necessarily ships that do not need to use it.”
He said it would be located on the south side of the harbor where the Bluepoints marina is located. He expected the Port to finalize the acquisition of this lease near the end of 2026.
He added that some businesses in the port that might not necessarily be there could also be relocated in the coming years.
“We have a lot of businesses here that, although they are subsidizing our rent and lease on our side of the property, they don’t really have a port business here,” Murray said. “And I’ve said since I came to the port in 2016 that in fact, unless you have a business that requires bulkheads or support a company that uses bulkheads then you really shouldn’t be in the port itself. You should do business elsewhere.
According to the BREA study, cargo operations were the next largest sector, generating approximately $1.2 billion in expenses. BREA noted that “overall tonnage has increased by 19%”.
“The material you see here, raw materials, is used to build highways in Florida,” Murray said. “It’s the biggest consumer of our material.”
Broken down, crude oil continued to be the biggest piece of the pie in both 2018 and 2023, accounting for 58% and 54% of cargo respectively. The most noticeable change was in timber, which went from $211,911 (4%) in 2018 to $905,000 (13%) in 2023.
It adds to the payload picture the contribution of the burgeoning commercial space industry, Murray said.
SpaceX was the main game in the city’s back-to-port capsule recovery ships and booster recovery drone ships, which is why Murray told Spectrum News that those numbers are gathered in the “Everything else” section of the payload data.
“Historically, we’ve included all of our space numbers in our charge numbers, and we’ve done that for one reason,” Murray explained. “That’s because there was only one space company operating here and we didn’t want to profile their operations and expenses and everything they do for the Port as one item because everyone would know who that was.”
“Now that we have multiple operators, you know, Blue (Origin) is in port, it will soon be time for us to split space as a separate component to make it more visible what impact the space industry has on port operations,” he added.