With several factors coming into play, cruise ships docking in Wrightsville Beach and Wilmington contribute to the local economy.
About 5.44 million visits from port-of-call passengers generated almost $672 million for an estimated total of $123.58 per visit, a Business Research and Economic Advisors 2012 study for Cruise Lines International Association stated.
In addition to passengers, crew members spent an estimated $47.75 per visit. Since 2011, those amounts increased by 1.7 percent.
Gordon Reddick, president and owner of Redix, said the business impact depends on the timing.
“Sometimes it has a very good effect,” Reddick said. “It depends on when they arrive and when they depart.”
When the ships are in Wrightsville Beach in the morning and during the afternoon, he said there is more of an impact on his business.
Reddick said he has noticed several cruise ships during the last several weeks.
“All I know is we do have some traffic from it,” he said. “I’d like to see more of them come through.”
Sue Bulluck, Wrightsville Beach Chamber of Commerce chairwoman, said the economic impact of cruise ships in town depends on proximity.
“In the past, in the ’90s, when we had cruise ships coming through, they would spend 24 to 48 hours and it was a very positive impact for the restaurants and businesses within the walking distance of where they docked then,” Bulluck said.
She said the impact was driven by proximity, and transportation has increased since that time from the ship to businesses.
“They’re in the $200 to $300 a day range for simply the housing,” Bulluck said about the passengers. “So they’re interested in dining and eating in the areas that they stop in.”
Recently an American Cruise Lines ship docked in Wrightsville Beach on Memorial Day with 100 passengers and two others docked in town in April and May. Two Blount Small Ship Adventures ships will dock at the Bridge Tender Marina in Wrightsville Beach through July.
On June 13, the Grande Mariner will bring about 45 passengers to town. On July 6, the Grande Caribe will bring about 88 passengers to Wrightsville Beach.
Bulluck said in the past the chamber conducted outreach and will again in the future in conjunction with the Wilmington and Beaches Convention and Visitors Bureau.
“In years past, Wrightsville Beach courted the snow birds in the same way,” Bulluck said. “…We would certainly look to do that with Intracoastal cruises.”
Kim Hufham, Wilmington and Beaches CVB president and CEO, said many of the cruises are history focused.
A few cruise lines have Wilmington as a regular destination on their rotation for the spring and fall. Repairs to the downtown Wilmington dock are bringing more ships to dock at the Bridge Tender Marina.