New report questions economic benefits of cruise industry for the Maritimes

March 26, 2009

Halifax, NS­ The Maritimes experienced an 1800 percent increase in cruise passenger numbers between 1990 and 2008. However, the author of a new Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives-NS report, entitled Cruising without a Bruising: Cruise Tourism and the Maritimes, warns that this growth is not necessarily good for local ports and communities.

According to Ross A. Klein, Professor of Social Work at Memorial University of Newfoundland and a Research Associate of CCPA-NS, “there is a need for a fuller account of the direct and indirect costs and benefits related to this industry. Investing in infrastructure for cruise ships must be weighed against other such infrastructure projects that might have greater social and economic benefit for local communities.”

In 2008, the ports collectively welcomed more than 550,000 cruise passengers. In 1990, four ports combined (Halifax, Sydney, Saint John, and Charlottetown) received less than 30,000 passengers. The cruise industry currently claims that this growth translates into substantial economic benefits to local ports, that we need not worry about its environmental impact because it is a responsible steward of the environment, and that it is the safest mode of commercial travel.

Ross Klein debunks each of these claims.

On the economic benefits, Professor Klein concludes that the cruise industry earns billions of dollars in net profit every year, while ports struggle to recoup their costs, much less realize a reasonable return. Local excursion providers receive half (or less) of what passengers pay the cruise ship for their tours, and many stores are expected to pay a significant share of revenue from purchases by passengers as commissions or fees back to the ship.

In short, according to Ross Klein, “the ports and taxpayers in the Maritimes are subsidizing the profitability of an industry that is registered offshore, relies on poorly-paid workers from developing countries, and that contributes a modest amount to the local economy. In addition, this industry is a threat to our marine environment and the aquatic life on which the livelihood of many citizens depends.”

In addition to these concerns, the 15,000 Maritimers who take cruises are largely ignorant of risks that they face - data about crime onboard ships reveal alarming rates of sexual assaults, disappearances under mysterious circumstances and robbery.

This report offers policy recommendations including concrete and constructive steps for increasing the economic benefit to ports and local business, for addressing threats to the marine and local environment, and for increasing security and safety of Canadian passengers onboard cruise ships.

As the author concludes: “Cruise ships are undoubtedly a major feature of seasonal tourism for ports in the Maritimes. It is imperative, therefore, that Maritimers understand this industry better. It is also imperative that our governments are held to account for its support of this industry and for ensuring that the benefits from this industry outweigh the costs to local ports and communities.”

For more information or to arrange an interview, contact the CCPA-NS director, Christine Saulnier (902) 477-1252..

The full report Cruising Without a Bruising: Cruise Tourism and the Maritimes can be downloaded free of charge from the CCPA’s website: