Cruises return and bring more tourists to port cities
GALVESTON, tÃ©x. – People are hungry to see their cities come to life with summer travelers, and now that cruises start sailing again over the holiday weekend, it looks like travel is back.
If you visit Galveston, Texas, it’s easy to see: Summer vacation is in full swing, even before the cruises take off.
âRight now it’s just packed. They are wall-to-wall people, âsaid Rodger Rees, CEO of the Port of Galveston.
Travelers enjoy it, and family businesses thrive.
âI don’t even know how this place can get busier, but I think it’s going to be great,â said Gracie Bassett, who runs Gracie’s gift shop with her family.
âMy parents have had Gracie’s for 24 years and they’ve been in the retail business for 29 years,â Bassett said. “I just grew up in the store.”
They feared COVID-19 could cut this family legacy short, but this stop for trinkets and treasures never stopped.
âBecause Galveston is so close to Houston, it is one of the fourth largest cities in the country. People could drive, and they just wanted to get away from the COVID madness, so they were coming to the beach, âBassett said.
Her family has been so busy that they were able to expand and open a second store just down the street. But, the success here contrasts sharply with the void a few blocks away.
âFrom a cruise perspective, we’ve been really hurt,â Rees said. “We’ve, we’ve lost about $ 44 million in revenue in the last 16 months.”
Galveston’s biggest attraction has been docked for over a year. The companies supporting the cruise industry have also nearly sunk.
âWe were still inactive and it was very hard on us,â said Jason Hayes, owner of several cruise parking lots in Galveston.
The business he built with his mother since 2003 has barely survived. He said he always saved money for rainy days and was grateful that he was able to build on that over the past year.
âWe haven’t shut down our Comcast. We didn’t stop our insurance on our buses, âsaid Hayes. âWe continued to pay our bills. If we had known we were going to be shutting down for 16 months, you know, I probably would have sold my buses.
But this man, just like this city, lives and breathes cruising. He even got married on a boat.
âIt’s what we do. It’s who we are. We’re a cruise ship parking family,â Hayes said.
This love kept her hope alive that the ships would return.
âYou can feel it. It’s in the air. People are getting ready. People are calling. People are excited, âsaid Hayes.
Cruises are expected to take off throughout July, with more ships docked in Galveston in the coming months.
But, this time off the cruise, travelers across the country have shown: there’s more here than just a port.
âWhat proves it is when you go out and see the cars and you see Oklahoma, you see Michigan, you see Kansas, you see Iowa,â Rees said of the tourists here. from different states coming just to enjoy the beach.
âGalveston is so rich in history and it’s kind of like, you know, little New Orleans, it’s got a lot of character. So, you know, there’s a lot of upside potential here, âRees said.
Because even when the cruises return, these families still want travelers to come and stay where they call home.