The passenger count is more than double 2008's 127,000.
Current bookings point to continued growth in 2015 and 2016, and the region anticipates surpassing the half million mark by about 2020, according to Tony Boemi, president of Cruise the St. Lawrence and vp growth and development with the Port of Montréal.
Since 2008, more than $180m has been invested to develop new ports and forge a targeted strategy with international cruise lines. As a result, the St. Lawrence now fields nine ports poised to handle cruise ship traffic—Montréal, Trois-Rivières, Québec, Saguenay, Baie-Comeau, Sept-Îles, Havre Saint-Pierre, Gaspésie and Îles de la Madeleine.
The region's success will require ongoing investment in the years ahead to manage peak season traffic and ensure the provision of quality services. For example, on Oct. 3 this year, the Port of Québec handled six ships and more than 20,000 passengers and crew on a single day. This required implementing a number of extraordinary measures.
Cruise the St. Lawrence said ongoing infrastructure development and cruise ship welcome projects for Montréal and Québec, the destination's primary turnaround ports, are key to ensuring the keeps pace with anticipated growth.
In 2012, the international cruise business generated economic benefits of some $285m and generated 2,200 direct and indirect jobs, according to a study by Business Research and Economic Advisors.