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Cruise Boom Benefits Regional Businesses

July 20, 2018

Seattle’s cruise industry is booming, and that means more visitors, more tourism, and more money to local businesses.  In fact, cruise ships generate about $500 million per season in economic impact to the region. 

Studies show that when people spend time in Seattle, they also spend money.  And services like Port Valet  encourage travelers to spend a little extra time in Seattle without their luggage, so they can sightsee, eat out, and explore Seattle.

The Port of Seattle conducted a survey with 431 cruise passengers who spent more than four hours in Seattle before or after a cruise.  The results showed that:

  • A family or group, on average, spends $850 before a cruise and $697 after a cruise 
  • 90 percent will spend a night in Seattle, with the average stay of two nights
  • 65 percent will stay downtown and 36 percent will stay near the airport
  • 92 percent will travel by air (excluding Washington state residents)
  • 56 percent say they are very likely or likely to return to Seattle in the next five years

Several tourism companies in the region confirmed that the cruise season and influx of visitors has had a positive impact on their business.

Puget Sound Express

Sarah Hanke, Director of Sales for Puget Sound Express, a family business that runs whale-watching tours out of Edmonds and Port Townsend, has seen their business grow with the increase in visitors looking for activities. 

“We definitely see the effects of the cruise ships when they are at port in Seattle.” She noted that the company has had:
•    An increase in reservations on Fridays during cruise season and the need to staff extra reservations agents to handle more business
•    Enough traffic to offer  two departures a day at 9:30 and 2:30 (the most popular time for cruise passengers)

Hanke sees great potential with the growth of Port Valet. “I see Seattle's amenities and attractions growing twofold. Creating Seattle as a gateway for these guests and continually adding the opportunities for them to stay before and after their adventure will directly benefit us.”

Seattle Express

Michael Rogers is the owner of three travel brands in Seattle and he says that each company has experienced growth as a result of Seattle’s cruise industry.  According to Rogers, the company has “posted double-digit growth year over year and is poised to shatter our revenue goals for 2018.” 

Rogers says “we’re excited by Norwegian’s decision to base their newest and largest cruise ship (the Bliss) here in Seattle. Put simply, more passengers means more opportunities to sell all our services which has a direct correlation on our revenue growth. …  Eighty percent of our business revenues come in just five months of the year, so the seasonality of the tourism industry remains a major challenge.”

Here’s a snapshot of the growth in his three expanding businesses:

  • Seattle Express operates scheduled passenger service from Sea-Tac Hotels to both piers, providing inexpensive cruise transfers for visitors staying at outlying hotels. They recently hired nine new drivers and added three mini-buses for the 2018 cruise season to help meet demand. 
  • Beeline Charters & Tours works directly with Seattle Express to handle all the private and custom transportation requests and provides support for the passenger transfer business on busy days. Beeline operates a diverse fleet of vans, mini-buses and motor coaches for charter.
  • Show Me Seattle is the sightseeing company offering unique experiences that showcase Seattle’s cultural history, dynamic food scene, innovative businesses, and beautiful geography. The company has introduced new products this year to capture cruise visitors. 

“Show Me Seattle launched a new pre-cruise tour this year that is intended to give cruise passengers a taste of Seattle before they head off to Alaska. We made it super easy and very inexpensive for our guests by incorporating a return ground transfer to the airport or Sea-Tac hotel with the purchase of any Pre-Cruise Tour package. We felt too many guests were bypassing Seattle on the way to the ship and we wanted to entice them to take a couple hours to experience the city before embarking on their cruise.”

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