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$20.2m impact from Bar Harbor cruise passenger spending

(Photos: Anne Kalosh)
Passengers spent an average of $108 on excursions, meals and drinks, clothing and souvenirs. One-third read 'Museum in the Streets' signs (lower left)
Cruise passenger spending in Maine's most popular port, Bar Harbor, had an economic impact estimated at $20.2m in 2016, according to a new university study.

This would support 379 jobs—full, part-time and seasonal—a 'pretty significant' number in a town with a population of 5,235, said Cornell Knight, town manager.

The study by the University of Maine's School of Economics is based on 2,231 mail surveys that were completed by visitors associated with 31 ship calls over 24 days between May and October. Passengers were surveyed from a mix of ships, small to large, and across a wide range of lines.

The $20.2m is up from the $13.7m estimated in 2005 and the $12.1m in 2002.

'Cruise ship activity has grown in the last years so this is good information to know. We were very pleased by the impact of over $20 million,' Knight said.

Ships arriving last year had capacity for 163,000 passengers, and the study calculated 138,285 passengers went ashore.

It found that travelers visiting Bar Harbor on a cruise are highly educated and affluent, and most are at least 50 years old (their median age was 65). They were avid cruisers—60% have taken at least five cruises—but most had not visited Maine before.

The ship visitors came from all 50 states and 22 countries.

This confirms the cruise passenger demographic is different from the typical Maine tourist, noted Amy Powers, director of CruiseMaine USA.

Prof. Todd Gabe, who led the study, explained Maine's summer vacation market consists of a high percentage of travelers who drive from nearby states like Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

Cruise passengers come from much further away, he said. The top two states were Florida and California, and Maryland, Texas, Virginia and Ohio were in the top 10.

More than 80% of the survey respondents were off the ship for at least four hours, including the time spent on cruise line excursions. Apart from the time on tours, about 50% of the respondents explored the local area for at least four hours.

About 44% walked along the shore path, and about 60% walked past the Village Green.

More than 96% visited at least one store or restaurant/bar, and about one-third visited 10 or more places. Over three-quarters of those surveyed spent money in one to four stores and restaurants/bars, and about 13% made purchases in five to nine stores and restaurants/bars.

About 60% of the survey respondents visited Acadia National Park, Bar Harbor's marquee attraction. Some 46% took a cruise line excursion. Of those, about 86% reported they shopped in Bar Harbor and 72% indicated they ate in Bar Harbor.

The survey respondents spent an average of $108. $74 of this amount does not include expenditures on cruise line tours. After tours, the largest expenditure items were meals and drinks, clothing and general souvenirs.

About one-third of the passengers reported reading 'Museum in the Streets' signs that provide written descriptions about nearby sites, and 40% used wayfinder signs. Powers said this confirms the value of the signs, which were paid for from passenger fees collected by the town.

Twenty additional signs are in the budget for 2017.

'It's also good to know that 45% of the people surveyed felt they needed more time in Bar Harbor,' Knight said, adding that the town is looking at purchasing a ferry terminal the state owns and converting it into a cruise terminal. If ships can dock, that would give people more time ashore.

'They lose time tendering so that could be useful information as we consider the cruise terminal,' the town manager added.

Not included in the study were crew spending or cruise line spending for such costs as ship agents, dockage, pilots and provisions. One example of a local activity not included in the economic impact analysis was the $686,472 in passenger fees collected by the town.

The study was funded by the Maine Port Authority/CruiseMaine USA and the town of Bar Harbor, with support from Harbor Place and the Bar Harbor Chamber of Commerce.

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