Florida’s tourism sector is one of the largest in the country, with a record of nearly 113 million visitors flocking to the Sunshine State in 2016. The state’s sandy beaches and abundance of theme parks are a key piece in driving tourists to Florida but you can also thank the large presence of the cruise industry for the record tourism numbers in the Sunshine State.
Due to Florida’s easy access to water, numerous ports have taken hold in the state and have made it the world’s premier embarkation center for cruise lines. Millions of people every year flood Florida’s ports to spend their vacations on cruise ships. In fact, Port Everglades, PortMiami and Port Canaveral are not just Florida’s most visited cruise ports, but they are the most visited ones in the entire world.
The booming cruise industry is a significant driver of the state’s job market and, according to a recent report, is directly responsible for 138,300 Florida jobs, up from 131,000 in 2012. Additionally, more than half of all U.S.-based cruise employment exists in Florida, with upwards of 16,000 people working for companies like Carnival and Royal Caribbean right here in the Sunshine State.
The impact of the cruise industry is felt well beyond the ships and ports though. Airlines, hotel chains, restaurants and travel agencies also experience benefits from Florida’s cruise since many passengers are from out of state or even the country, and tend to stay additional days before or after their cruise. Direct expenditures by Florida-based passengers, cruise lines and their crew exceeded $7.33 billion in 2013, boosting the state’s economy.
With all this in mind, it is safe to say that the Sunshine State is sailing smoothly in part due to the cruise industry’s impact on the economy. But with growing success comes challenges.
Many of Florida’s ports have been working hard to keep up with rising demand and the larger ships being built by the cruise lines. In order to improve passenger satisfaction and to keep things moving, numerous Florida ports have begun significant upgrades in order to handle the larger ships and growing number of passengers coming in. For example, Port Canaveral recently opened a new cruise terminal and parking facility and is currently undergoing a dredging project to allow larger ships to pass into the port. The port is expected to be the world’s most visited cruise port before 2020.
With millions of people traveling on Florida-based cruises yearly and billions of dollars flowing through the state economy as a result, the Sunshine State is set to continue to be a premier cruise destination for years to come.