Port of Houston Wants to Expand Cruise Terminals

Port of Houston officials are trying to convince the cruise industry to expand service to local terminals. The Bayport cruise terminal is under construction and cruise lines are taking a look at the Houston travel market. Houston Public Radio's Laurie Johnson reports.

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The first of three new cruise terminals at Bayport is scheduled to open in spring of 2007. Houston already has one cruise terminal at Barbour's Cut and Galveston has it's own terminal as well. But the market for cruises is growing and Port of Houston officials are recruiting cruise lines to sign on at the Bayport location. Michael Crye is the president of the International Council of Cruise Lines. He says last year more than 650,000 Texans took a cruise.

"In Texas you have increased your cruise embarkations very significantly over the past several years. I think last year alone you had approximately a 20 percent increase. And your home ports here in Texas are becoming a very, very popular home port."

Doug Horn is chairman of the Greater Houston Convention and Visitor's Bureau. He says the industry is already running ships out of Houston and Galveston at capacity and wants to expand services.

"We anticipate that we're going to have a huge economic impact upon the city. Currently we're looking at $83-85 million a year from the one cruise terminal that we have at the port. That can only double if not increase more. So we're looking for great things out of that."

The cruising industry took several hits last year with several high profile incidents including missing passengers, a fire on board a ship, pirate attacks on ships and a very active hurricane season. But Crye says those problems haven't had a significant impact on the bottom line.

"When an incident does occur, as they do, crusing, being high visibility as it is, gets a lot of press, a lot of publicity out of these experiences. But if you look at the statistics, you will see that it's a very safe vacation experience."

Some environmental groups have concerns about the increased cruise traffic coming through Galveston Bay. Ships and vehicles will create additional emissions, congestion and noise in the area. Laurie Johnson, Houston Public Radio News.

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