The Port of Galveston will see 17 more ship departures in 2019 than it did in 2018, a traffic increase that has hoteliers hoping to boost occupancy during the week.
As traffic at the port is expected to more than double by 2038, hotel industry leaders have expressed concern that concentrating that visitation on the weekend could leave their rooms empty on weekdays.
Ships will depart from both terminals on 297 days this year, compared to 280 last year, according to port schedules.
This year, a slightly smaller proportion of those ships will depart on weekends. In 2018, 201, 71.8 percent, of the cruise ship departure days were Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, according to cruise ship calendars.
This year, cruise ships will depart 203 weekend days, 68.4 percent of the departure days, according to port schedules.
That’s good for hotels, which are trying to increase occupancy levels during the middle of the week, Galveston Hotel & Lodging Association President Willis Gandhi said.
“When they increase more cruise ships on the weekend, it doesn’t really benefit,” Gandhi said.
That’s because hotels already are full on the weekend, he said. Hoteliers across the island could benefit from more traffic during the week, he said.
This year, the port will see ships on every day of the week but Tuesday, Wharves Board of Trustees Chairman Ted O’Rourke said. The wharves board governs the port.
This increase in weekday port traffic is a natural evolution of an increasingly popular cruise industry and is independent of whatever peaks in visitation will come from the third terminal, when it’s built, O’Rourke said.
The third terminal, near Pier 10 and owned by Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, is scheduled for completion in 2021.
“It’s all good business,” O’Rourke said.
And people already are spending money in Galveston hotels before and after their cruises, he said.
“They’re not coming just to go jump on a ship,” O’Rourke said. “They’re going to spend a few days after or a few days before and visit the island.”
Last year, the largest share, 54.9 percent, of the 51 full weeks on the cruise calendar were three departure day weeks, according to calendars.
This year, the largest share, 69.2 percent, of the 52 full weeks scheduled will be four departure day weeks, according to the calendars.
That’s a step in the right direction, said Spencer Priest, chairman of the Galveston Park Board of Trustees.
The park board maintains island beaches and promotes tourism.
“Spreading the arrival and departure of the critical mass of cruise passengers out is exactly the kind of leverage we would like to see the port continue to push for as we grow the cruise industry,” Priest said.
More weekday departures help businesses, as well, he said. The focus should be on sustainable tourism for hotels, businesses and residents, he said.
Sending weekday business to the hotels isn’t necessarily the job of the port or the cruise ships, O’Rourke said.
But the port’s strategic plan is to take into account traffic measures that push business into the downtown area, he said.