The South Carolina State Ports Authority (SCSPA) and area business leaders who comprise the Cruise Business Council gathered aboard Carnival Cruise Lines’ Fantasy on August 3.

The Cruise Business Council was formed in March 2011 to support continual business benefits related to the cruise industry in Charleston, and to encourage business leaders to stay informed and involved.

The Council is co-chaired by David Dunlap, Roper St. Francis Hospital System; John Keener, Charleston Crab House; John Hassell, Maritime Association of South Carolina; and Erin Mellen, Charleston Convention & Group Services.

“The Cruise Business Council is a way for business leaders in the community to become involved with the cruise industry, which benefits both the local maritime community as well as hundreds of local businesses,” said John Hassell. “Carnival has been a great community partner, and the Cruise Business Council is here today to show our support for cruise, economic development and jobs in Charleston.”

During today’s event, Carnival further demonstrated its continuing commitment to the Charleston area community. As a part of the line’s year-long partnership with the MUSC Children’s Hospital, which included several in-kind and monetary donations and fundraisers, Carnival announced its latest effort to raise funds. In partnership with 40 area businesses, Carnival unveiled the “Charleston Insider Deals” fundraiser booklet.

The booklet features exclusive Charleston business deals given to Carnival cruise passengers as they plan their cruise. Carnival will distribute more than 15,000 booklets to travel agent partners across the country and each travel agent will send the booklet to guests along with their cruise documents. This enables cruisers to take advantage of great deals on hotels, tours and dinner reservations in advance, spending more time in Charleston.

Through a combination of funds provided by the businesses featured in the booklet and an additional $10,000 donation from Carnival, a total of $18,000 is being provided to MUSC Children’s Hospital through this fundraiser.  In total, Carnival’s year-long partnership with the hospital has generated an estimated $50,000 in in-kind and monetary donations.

Also during the luncheon, SCSPA Vice President Byron Miller presented the latest survey results on the positive impact of cruise on the economy.  The results from that survey of more than 1,800 cruise passengers revealed:

·         70 percent of cruise passengers cited the city’s historical context and architecture as what they liked most about their visit

·         Nearly 40 percent of cruisers visit area attractions or shop in locally-owned stores while in Charleston

·         50 percent of cruise visitors dined in more than 115 different restaurants

·         36 percent of cruise visitors stay one or more additional nights in Charleston hotels and lodging before or after their cruise

·         43 percent of cruise visitors are visiting Charleston for the first time

·         98 percent of all cruise passengers are likely to return to experience Charleston events or further explore its history and attractions

“These survey results demonstrate the cruise industry’s broad benefits for jobs and spending in our region and state,” said Byron Miller, SCSPA vice president of marketing, public relations and planning. “With the support of these businesses and Carnival, this economic growth helps businesses at a very challenging time in our economy.”

Miller also discussed the economic impact of the Union Pier Plan. The conversion of the new terminal will deliver an estimated economic boost of $43 million and more than 300 jobs.

In 2010, the cruise industry supported more than 400 jobs and resulted in $37 million in total economic output for Charleston, including $16 million in wages and $3.5 million in tax revenues.