TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — More travelers are setting sail from Port Tampa Bay.
New numbers from AAA show cruise bookings are twice as strong as this time last year.
Business owners throughout Tampa Bay say the industry’s rebound is helping their sales recover from the pandemic.
Sebastien Rivas is the owner of Milkin’ It located in Channelside. He’s happy to be welcoming more cruise passengers into his shop.
“With the pandemic I always thought it was going to be a struggle,” he told 8 On Your Side. “You can definitely tell the difference between locals and cruisers.”
Port Tampa Bay’s Senior Director of Development Greg Lovelace says each cruise that docks at the port has a $300,000 impact on the local economy.
He says each ship brings additional benefits.
“Quite frankly, it’s jobs — the cruise business supports jobs in Tampa Bay,” Lovelace said.
According to Lovelace, before the pandemic, 1.1 million passengers were cruising out of Tampa.
He doesn’t expect this years numbers to reach that strength but believes they’ll return to that capacity by 2023.
In the meantime, he says they’re seeing an increase in other activity.
“A lot of the cargo really, kind of, came up with all the demand going on in Florida. The I-4 corridor, there’s just such a demand for goods. Whether it’s building or consumer, it really helped us get through this pandemic and the dip in the cruise business,” he told 8 On Your Side.
Rivas said any growth is good news for his business.
“It’s really important because, obviously, with the promotion of the store. The store itself leads to tourism too, so, being right here by the port, it helps,” he said.