The cruise industry generated $55.5 billion in economic activity in the US last year, up 5.3% from 2018.

The pre-pandemic impact of the sector was outlined by the Cruise Lines International Association as the new administration under president-elect Joe Biden prepares to take office in January.

The growth in economic activity was accompanied by an increase in industry-supported jobs prior to all global cruises being halted by Covid-19 in March, with a return to service not expected until the new year.

Carnival Cruise Line this week extended its suspension of US sailings to the end of January, with cruises from some ports not to return until March.

According to the Clia analysis, the cruise sector supported 436,600 American jobs paying $24.4 billion in wages in 2019 – a 3.5% and 5.4% increase from 2018, respectively.

The latest figures follow nearly a decade of continued growth in the cruise industry with more than 13.7 million passengers carried from US ports last year, representing a 26% leap in five years.

The report underscored the “tremendous growth” of cruise and the corresponding contribution to the US economy prior to the global Covid-19 health emergency.

Multiple sectors benefit, including transportation, aviation, food and drink, lodging, manufacturing, agriculture, travel agencies and a supply chain stretching across the US.

Clia president and chief executive Kelly Craighead said: “The pre-pandemic trends clearly demonstrate that cruising has emerged as one of the fastest growing sectors of travel and tourism.

“The cruise industry is proud to play an important role in the creation of jobs and economic opportunity for nearly half a million Americans throughout the country.

“At the same time, we recognise the devastating impact that Covid-19 has had on our community.

“A resumption of cruising in the United States in 2021, with stringent measures in place and with the support of health authorities, will be critical to putting people back to work and fueling the greater economic recovery from the pandemic.”

The top ten states benefiting economically from the contributions of the cruise industry are:

  • Florida
  • California
  • Texas
  • New York
  • Alaska
  • Washington
  • Georgia
  • Illinois
  • New Jersey
  • Louisiana

Meanwhile, Royal Caribbean Group is extending its ‘cruise with confidence’ scheme so people booking by January 31 have the flexibility to cancel up to 48 hours prior to sailing and receive a full credit of the cruise fare paid for a future cruise through to April 2022 and May 4, 2022 for Celebrity Cruises. 

 Group chairman and chef executive Richard Fain said: “We want our guests to feel they can safely keep their existing cruise bookings or schedule new sailings, because this policy gives them more freedom and flexibility.”