Cruise cancellations further damage Florida's struggling tourism industry

As cruise lines extend cancellations, Florida's port-of-call cities, including Tampa, continue to take economic hits. This month Norwegian, MSC, Royal Caribbean and other cruise lines have canceled voyages through November, and some companies like Carnival Cruises are holding off passengers through early 2021.

Fewer people mean less money flowing into the Bay Area economy, and tourism leaders said cruises are a selling point for Tampa.

“Lots of different things are impacted by a tourist deciding they’re going to take a cruise out of Tampa and enjoy the destination,” said Santiago Corrada, president and CEO of Visit Tampa Bay.

MORE: Carnival Cruise Line cancels remaining November cruises from Florida ports

Corrada said cruise passengers spend money at local restaurants and attractions and help the hotel industry.

“If you’re planning a pre- or post-cruise experience, you may decide that you want to stay in a hotel over on the beaches for a few days and then take your cruise,” he said.  “Or you might decide you want to stay downtown or in historic Ybor City or down by the airport.”

Port Tampa Bay says cruises will bring in about $1.8 million for the 2020-2021 fiscal year. That's about 4% of its annual budget.

Port Tampa Bay’s president and CEO, Paul Anderson, said the port has not taken a big hit so far and no employees have lost jobs as a result of cruise cancellations.

Anderson said in a statement to FOX 13 that “Port Tampa Bay is one of the most diversified ports in the country with cargo, bulk cargo, and a robust container business, which helps it continue to have a strong financial standing.”

Port Tampa Bay also sent the following statement regarding cruise cancellations:

"Port Tampa Bay is working closely with all the cruise lines that homeport out of our port and we will be prepared to welcome them back when they are ready. We have taken extra precautions to keep our cruise terminals clean and disinfected, and we sanitize them with an EPA-approved chemical to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Port Tampa Bay is on standby to serve our cruise lines and to follow any protocols that may be in place for a safe return of cruising.”

In the meantime, cruise dollars do add up in Tampa’s tourism economy and leaders said the pandemic makes for a slower recovery.

“I know from the tourism angle, we are missing that piece, and every little piece helps get us across the finish line,” said Corrada.

Tampa's diverse port stays busy, even during pandemic

Tampa’s port may have seemed emptier lately, without all of those cruise ships steaming in and out. But in other ways, it’s been business as usual.