BAR HARBOR, Maine — The number of cruise ships that have been stopping in Maine ports has been on the rise in recent years.
According to a cruise industry study, the amount of direct spending the industry has contributed to Maine’s economy has gone up even more sharply.
Earlier this month, Cruise Lines International Association released figures for the 2011 cruise ship season in North America that indicated the industry spent $45 million directly in Maine last year. That figure represents nearly a 25 percent increase from the more than $36 million the industry spent in Maine in 2010, according to cruise industry officials.
The number of jobs generated by the industry in Maine for 2011 was 795, which represents a 15 percent increase from the 690 jobs the industry generated in the state the previous year, the industry group indicated. People who held those jobs earned wages totaling approximately $25 million for the year.
Chris Fogg, executive director of Bar Harbor’s Chamber of Commerce, said Tuesday that he was “surprised and pleased” to see that cruise industry-related spending in Maine increased last year.
He said that the number of cruise ship passengers expected in Bar Harbor this year is expected to decrease slightly, even though Bar Harbor is expected to get more ship visits overall. Fogg said more of this year’s visits are expected to be by slightly smaller ships, though many can carry 1,000 passengers or more.
“It’s been a good season,” Fogg said of 2012, though he added that most of the scheduled visits for the year are expected for later this fall.
“For a long time, Bar Harbor would be pretty quiet after Labor Day,” Fogg said. “It definitely helps our shoulder season and the restaurants and shops downtown.”
Bar Harbor is expected to get 114 cruise ship visits this year, ranging from the 49-passenger American Glory to the 3,110-passenger Caribbean Princess. Some ships have more than 1,000 crew members, who also spend money in Bar Harbor when they are in port.
Bar Harbor’s record number of visits for any year was in 2010, when it had 107 ship visits. Last year, Bar Harbor had 106.
Charlie Phippen, Bar Harbor’s harbor master, said the town had expected to get 119 visits this year, but five smaller ships have canceled arrivals so far due to poor weather. More than 70 of the scheduled visits are between now and the end of October.
He said that, so far, Bar Harbor has 104 visits scheduled for 2013, and that does not include any of the smaller ships that tie up to the town pier, because they don’t book their visits as far in advance as the larger ships.
Phippen said that cruise ship industry spending can increase from year to year even if passenger counts don’t fluctuate much. Ships that visit Bar Harbor pay a fee based on their passenger capacity, he said, but ships that tie up to berths — as they do in Portland — often pay a fee that takes into account both the length of a ship and its passenger capacity.
Portland, Maine’s second-busiest cruise ship port, had 59 scheduled cruise ship visits in 2011, up from 45 in 2010 — an increase that coincides with the rise in industry spending cited in the CLIA report. Like last year, Portland is expected to get 59 cruise ship visits in 2012.
This year, Portland has experimented with being a supply port, where ships can take on provisions it uses while under power or stopped at other locations on their itineraries. Port industry officials in Portland have said that the industry likely would spend substantially more in Portland if the city functioned as a supply port in addition to being a port of call for passengers.
Amy Powers, director of industry marketing group CruiseMaineUSA, said Tuesday that spending in Maine has increased as costs such as motor fuel for bus tours have gone up, but that cruise ship passengers have demonstrated they still are willing to pay for those services.
She said shore-side passenger services such as coach tours or boat tours have been aggressive in expanding their offerings, such as by finding new day-trip destinations for cruise ship passengers, which helps to attract repeat visitors.
“The cruise ship industry has been coming to Maine for a long time, since 1989,” she said. “If you want to attract repeat visitors, you have to update your product.
Nationally, the cruise ship industry has contributed more than $40 billion to the U.S. economy in 2011, according to the industry group.
Studies in recent years show that the amount of money the cruise ship industry contributes to Maine’s economy has risen steadily for several years. A few years ago, CLIA said cruise ship companies and passengers spent $29 million in the state in 2008, up from $24 million in 2007. The following year, cruise industry spending went up to $34.5 million, an increase of nearly $6 million, or 19 percent, from 2008.
Follow BDN reporter Bill Trotter on Twitter at @billtrotter.