The Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) today released "The Contribution of the North American Cruise Industry to the U.S. Economy in 2008" report, detailing the industry’s strong performance despite uncertain economic times, which began more than a year ago.

In 2008, direct spending in goods and services by cruise lines and their passengers totaled $19.07 billion, according to CLIA, a 2 percent increase over the previous year. Adding indirect spending, which includes expenditures of cruise line vendors and those businesses that provide the goods and services to passengers and crew, the total gross economic impact in the United States was $40.2 billion – a 6 percent increase over 2007.

The cruise industry also generated 357,710 jobs that paid a total of $16.2 billion in wages and salaries nationwide, according to the report. CLIA began conducting a national cruise industry economic impact study in 1997, and has conducted one every year since then. Last year represents the eleventh consecutive year of growth in job creation in the cruise vacation industry.

"The cruise industry continues to be an engine of economic growth around the world and a positive force in the United States. While a 2 percent annual increase in cruise industry spending represents a slower rate of growth than our industry’s historical averages, we are gratified and encouraged to post continued gains during this recessionary environment when many businesses are retrenching," said CLIA Executive Vice President Bob Sharak.

Passenger embarkations on CLIA member cruise lines at U.S. ports totaled nearly 9 million in 2008. Globally, 13 millions passengers took a cruise vacation last year (on CLIA member lines), a 4 percent increase over 2007. Florida remains the center of cruising in the United States, accounting for 57 percent of all U.S. embarkations.

The cruise vacation industry’s economic impact touched all 50 U.S. states, but it was greatest in 10 states, which accounted for 78 percent of direct purchases in the United States and 81 percent of the total employment and income. Those states are: Florida, California, Alaska, New York, Texas, Washington, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois and Colorado.