According to Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson, the cruise terminal generates $6.5 million in annual revenue with a cruise ship in port. Without, it costs $2 million per year to service debt on the building.
The Carnival Fantasy will be calling Mobile its home port for at least one more year. Mayor Sandy Stimpson and members of the City Council gathered Monday morning to announce a one-year extension of a contract between the city and the cruise line.
“This agreement is evidence of the positive working relationship between the city of Mobile and Carnival,” Stimpson said. “We’re not only providing an amenity … this will have a huge financial impact on the city.”
Before Carnival returned to Mobile in 2016 after a four-year absence, Stimpson said the city was sinking roughly $2 million per year into the cruise terminal with little to no return. Now, he said, the terminal is bringing in $6.5 million in revenue this year, $2 million of which is profit. That profit goes to pay down the roughly $18 million in debt left on the building. The terminal has ranked high among customers as well, Stimpson said.
Councilman Fred Richardson said the city would always support Carnival and added he was hopeful for a second ship at the Mobile Alabama Cruise Terminal next year.
“We’re going to assure you that if you bring a ship here we’re going to back it up,” he said. “We want a second ship so that we can go further than we ever have.”
The ship has had a positive impact on tourism over the last two years, Visit Mobile CEO David Clark said. Some 360,000 visitors have traveled to Mobile by vehicle or plane and spent 55,000 hotel room nights here, he said, and the extension of the contract means the cruise ship will continue to be a tourism amenity.
However, the city is losing another waterfront amenity, as Gulf Coast Ducks has announced it won’t be giving amphibious tours in 2019.
In a statement on its Facebook page, the company said it could no longer find “affordable insurance” and would close next year. The issue stems from a duck boat accident in Missouri this summer in which 17 people were killed.
Bob Ojeta, office manager and driver with Austin Duck Adventures in Texas, said the accident has had an impact on business for amphibious tours nationwide. For companies that use the military-style duck boats, like Gulf Coast Ducks, it is almost impossible to get insurance.
Insurance for the new hydraterra duck boats is affordable because they are higher off the ground and virtually “unsinkable,” Ojeta said.
Clark lamented the loss of Gulf Coast Ducks, which he said had been popular among locals and tourists alike.
“The duck boats did a good job and they were well received,” he said, adding he regrets that one event can “wipe out a whole industry.”
“It’s really a blow,” he said.”We’re thankful for what we had. Hopefully the insurance market will soften and they can come back.”
In the meantime, Clark said Wild Native Tours is available for river excursions, and starting in January the paddlewheeler Perdido Queen will offer dinner cruises on the river.
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