This symposium gathered experts from around the world to examine various approaches to
cruise tourism in historic port communities with the intent of exploring best practices as well as
While some cases demonstrated well-managed cruise tourism destinations,
there were an alarming number of cases illustrating the negative impact of cruise tourism on
port communities, especially smaller historic cities and towns that are challenged by the influx of
visitors arriving by ship.
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Large city ports, such as New York and Los Angeles, have the capacity
to absorb thousands of passengers headed to shore.
The few smaller city success stories shared a
common theme of community collaboration in setting guidelines for cruise ships entering their
ports to ensure a return to the local economy, protect natural and cultural resources, and mitigate
social and environmental impacts. However, most of the cases presented during the symposium
echoed a common theme of costs outweighing benefits due to poor coordination and management
of the cruise tourism-port community relationship.
This is compounded by the fact that,
more often than not, negotiations regarding cruise terminal development and ship dockings are
undertaken by port authorities at state, regional, or national levels, rather than by the municipalities
directly affected. The international trade and security issues associated with port management
understandably require higher government engagement, but failure to include communitylevel
stakeholders often results in the exploitation of local resources and values.
Decision-making about where, when, and how cruise ships call on historic port communities
should be participatory, recognizing that there will always be conflicts between meeting the
needs of those who live in a place versus those visiting. Tourism and heritage will forever be
linked, despite inherent tensions between protecting and allowing access, preserving and promoting
for consumption. In negotiating these differences, communities can forge a common vision
for how best to balance tourism interests and to preserve the qualities that draw visitors to
their port. Author Tony Hiss, who served as the symposium rapporteur, eloquently noted that
“historic preservation is a misnomer.
It sounds as if we are facing the past, when in fact it is all
about the future. It’s about what we want to pass on to the next generation. It is not only about
our heritage at risk but our ability to transmit across time and not lead single-generation lives.”
Many who attended the symposium are preservationists; their primary charge is the stewardship
of cultural heritage—tangible and intangible. But more and more there is a realization that
such stewardship cannot be divorced from broader social, environmental, and economic issues.
Preservation is a tool that helps to improve quality of life for communities, a tool that must be
balanced against a variety of other societal concerns regarding sustainable development.
There are, in many cases, direct impacts on heritage resulting from cruise tourism, but these
must be understood within the larger dynamic of socio-economic conditions, ecological concerns,
land use planning, politics, and more in order to work toward positive change. An impetus
behind this symposium was a common concern for heritage, but the approach has been to cast a
much wider net—to engage a variety of professionals and researchers so as to better contextualize
the commitment to preserving historic places within a broader agenda.
At the same time, these historic places and this discourse about cruise tourism must be framed
in a global context. Many communities rich in heritage resources are grappling with similar issues
and looking for effective solutions. By raising the dialogue and sharing experiences from
around the world, the aim was to shed more light on some of these complex issues and to foster
better connections, not only between different disciplines, but also between communities.
A constant thread throughout the symposium was that positive change requires collective
action, and the burden of that collective action falls on local communities.
lawmakers, business owners, and advocates must define a future vision for their community and
establish the parameters of change and development. With that in mind, the following recommendations
emerged from the symposium with regard to negotiating the relationship between
historic port cities and potential cruise tourism:
The oldest cruise ship in the Carnival fleet—moored here in Charleston, SC—carries 2,675 passengers and a crew of
• Engage all stakeholders
• Work together to establish a common base and enhance political leverage
• Examine a range of tools for collective action to enhance transparency on the part of local/
state government and port authorities (legal action, lobbying, etc.)
• Define goals for quality of life and sustainability
• Undertake community-based surveys, polls, and assessments to establish a robust
understanding of local opinion and values
• Collect data on the metrics that influence community life and health (traffic, air and water
quality, property values, etc.)
• Analyze options within the context of broader land use and transportation/mobility
planning, waterfront industry, economic development, and tourism strategies in general
• Establish limits of acceptable change and baselines for impact assessments
• Establish a formal coalition of stakeholder entities and organizations (government,
business, civic, etc.) to allow for cooperation, shared decision-making, and effective
management of cruise tourism (e.g. DMO—destination management organization)
• Develop plans for social, cultural, environmental, and financial strategies as they relate to
tourism and necessary infrastructure. In the case of heritage that means good conservation
management plans for sites that define capacities, manage visitation, etc.
• Implement a range of local policy tools to regulate and create incentives/disincentives for
complying with local standards and requirements, and also ensure a return on local investment
and social costs (laws, taxation, certifications, performance bonds, monitoring, etc.)
• Establish a system for regular long-term evaluation and communication
• Establish a network of organizations across historic port communities to share experiences
• Undertake research to understand common challenges and best practices in a range of
• Develop shared parameters to serve as “minimum” requirements for managing cruise
• Develop vehicles for collaborative negotiating that prevent communities from being pitted
against each other
• Form cooperative alliances for lobbying higher levels of government and the industry
Between Communities and Industry
• Work with NGOs and other international organizations to develop methodologies for
working with communities and policies for minimizing impacts in port selection and
• Establish community affairs officers/destination liaisons within cruise companies to allow
for direct communication with community representatives
Cruise Ship Tourism
Impacts and Trends: A Literature Review
Caroline Cheong for World Monuments Fund
, the global cruise ship sector hosted 16.37 million people on more than 200 ships.
Between 1980 and 2007, the sector averaged an 8% growth and grew their number of berths
by 500%, expanding at more than double the rate of land-based tourism (Cruise Lines International
Association, 2012). By some accounts cruise travel accounts for no more than 2.2%
of overall tourist activity, but the subsector’s positive and negative contributions to, and impacts
upon, the economy, environment, culture, and infrastructure of global and local communities
far exceed its market size. These impacts are intensified as cruise ship operators respond to consumer
demand for a fuller onboard experience by building ships that are larger and more amenity-rich.
Though some regulatory action has taken place to mitigate and manage these impacts,
governmental efforts are hindered by a legal environment in which most cruise operators sail
under “flags of convenience,1
” allowing companies to circumvent tax liabilities, safety standards,
inspections, and environmental and labor laws.
However, despite the subsector’s enormous growth and these profound effects, current academic
and professional literature on cruise ship tourism and its impacts is surprisingly limited,
an absence that has been noted by many leading cruise ship tourism scholars and practitioners.
Papathanassis examines this paucity of research, examining the “poverty of cruise theory” hypothesis
through a literature review that addresses the fragmented nature of inquiry in the field
and the absence of theoretical and foundational underpinnings (Papathanassis, 2011; Economic
Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, 2005). A further review of existing literature
and issues is therefore a pertinent step toward illuminating the challenges and opportunities facing
the sector and the communities with whom it interacts.
Research on cruise ship tourism has been conducted and produced by three main groups: the
academic, non-profit and non-governmental (NGO), and practitioner sectors. Media reports
substantiate this research by providing current and on-the-ground details of popular opinion
and sentiment. Each of these groups carries their own biases and approaches, with academic
works seemingly being most objective and methodologically transparent. Scholarly works have a
wide range of focus, while NGO-produced publications largely describe environmental concerns
or economic impacts. Similarly, publications from cruise tourism practitioners primarily promote
the industry’s economic and financial benefits as well as its historic and projected expansion.
Cumulatively, these works can be divided into five general categories of focus: cruise ship management
and operation, environmental impacts, global and local economic impacts, local communities,
heritage values and the built environment, and medical and safety concerns. Though
these divisions can be made, the topics and impacts neither exist in isolation nor occur in a linear
fashion. Rather, these themes are interconnected and interdependent and many of the resources
approach the topic as such—some studies discuss multiple topics at once, addressing the threads
that connect environmental and economic impacts or economic impacts and visitor experience.
Of these sources, the majority of cruise ship tourism literature is focused on the management
and operations of the ship and the tourist experience. Cruise ship tourism is a profit-driven
business. As such, effective marketing and administration of the cruise ship as a product has
attracted the attention of cruise ship scholars and practitioners whose aim it is to analyze cruise
ship operations and increase the industry’s profitability. Subsequent publications are focused on
cruise ship tourism’s economic impacts, followed by a focus on its environmental effects. Cruise
ship tourism’s social and cultural impacts are subsumed within broader tourism discussions
about authenticity, values, and how to manage change, while cruise tourism-focused interests
emerge primarily through case-specific media reports. Similarly, conversations regarding cruise
ship tourism’s impacts on the physical fabric of port cities are limited to infrastructure required
for tourism operations, such as sanitation, berth areas, construction, and maintenance and are
discussed in the context of management and business administration. There is minimal academic
or professional literature specifically targeted to cruise ship tourism’s impacts upon on heritage
buildings, though some media reports substantiate the existence and importance of such concerns.
Lastly, there are a handful of academic works focused on safety and medical issues aboard
cruise ships. An analysis of the content in each of these categories follows.