Both, Staff and Passengers, Impact the Economics of Cruise Ship Visits in the Keweenaw

Last week the Keweenaw saw for the first time, the Viking Octantis. While the ship was the largest vessel in the canal that day, it was not the first cruise ship to make a stop in the Copper Country. This summer marked the return of cruise ships in the area in over a decade. While a lot of focus has been on the arrival of the boats, how does the cruise ship industry affect the local area’s economy?

In the cruise industry, there’s a rule of thumb, where 30 percent of cruise passengers return to one or more of the stops the visited along their cruise. There’s not as many staff, as passengers, but there are more than you would anticipate. And that’s often a sort of overlooked component of the cruise industry. And they get off the ship. and this is their free time to stock up on everyday items, like snacks or medications. – Brad Barnett, Executive Director, Visit Keweenaw

There have been concerns that the environmental impact of these cruises will outweigh the economic benefit. Visit Keweenaw Executive Director, Brad Barnett, confirmed that Viking seeks to limit their impact on the lakes whenever possible. In conjunction with Michigan’s Healthy Climate Plan, cruise lines in the great lakes are held to a rigorous sustainability pledge.

So the cruise industry in the Great Lakes is heavily regulated. Viking is an industry leader, when it comes to limiting their impact environmentally. They do a fantastic job of doing small things, like not dropping anchors. So they’re very conscious of that. And they do everything in their realm of possibility to make sure they are not impacting Lake Superior, or watersheds, or the local ecology in the areas they are visiting. This is a low impact cruising operation, and they something they’re very proud of. And why we are really happy to host them. – Brad Barnett, Executive Director, Visit Keweenaw

Barnett also noted that it is difficult to quantify the economic and environmental impacts in the Copper Country right now, as the ships are returning for the first time in over a decade to the area. As passenger return home, they take with them the experiences of the Keweenaw, and act as sort of ambassadors of the region. During each around the lakes the Octantis carries just over 350 passengers.