Instead of the blue skies and smooth sailing report of past State of the Port addresses, this year’s Port Canaveral’s presentation described a cruise industry caught in the throes of a merciless pandemic-caused hurricane.
Port Canaveral reported a $18.36 million loss for the 2019-20 budget year, down from a profit of $24.26 million in the 2018-19 budget year. Operating revenue decreased from $106.51 million in 2018-19 to $67.11 million in 2019-20. Of those figures, cruise ship and cruise-related parking revenue totaled $81.91 million in 2018-19, representing 76.9 percent of overall operating revenue. In 2019-20, that number totaled only $44.10 million, representing 65.7 percent of overall operating revenue, according to Florida Today.
Port Canaveral Chief Executive Officer John Murray said the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the cruise industry has made for a “tough time, a very tough time.”
Because of COVID-19, there have been no multi-day cruises from Port Canaveral since mid-March. At the end of October, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lifted its “no-sail order,” however, the cruise industry voluntarily decided to not sail again until the end of December. Even then, the CDC has an extensive list of procedures required for cruises to resume and its “conditional sail order” is extended until Nov. 1, 2021.
Murray said the impact of COVID doesn’t affect just the cruise ships, it affects all the small businesses like local restaurants, retail shops, hotels and attractions that benefit from a steady stream of cruise passengers. “Businesses depend on that revenue stream, (from the cruise business) and they don’t have a revenue stream right now. They gotta get their cruising operations going.”
He said his biggest concern is “the caseload for COVID is exploding right now. As that gets worse, (a) it will have a detrimental effect on people wanting to get on a cruise, and (b) getting support from the CDC to get the cruise lines back in business.
“There’s so many variables out there. I can tell you and assure you that there are a lot of people are working on it right now, and everybody wants to get back in business as quickly as possible,” Murray said.
“Let’s keep our fingers crossed for a stronger 2021,” he said.