SEATTLE -- A cruise ship is making history in Seattle.
The Royal Caribbean's "Explorer of the Seas" is the largest cruise ship to ever dock in Elliott Bay. It's more than 1,000 feet long and holds more than 3,100 passengers.
The Port of Seattle used the occasion to announce it's awarding $100,000 in grants to 13 local communities to help market their neighborhoods to cruise ship passengers. The money will go to local neighborhoods' Chambers of Commerce and other organizations that promote tourism.
"We're also working with them to get the word out there's great things to do in Seattle and Washington after you're off your cruise," said John Creighton, of the Port of Seattle Commission.
The program is part of the Port of Seattle's "Century Agenda," a plan for growth passed in 2012, that included aggressive business goals. The port hopes to work with the cruise industry to double its impact in Washington state in the next 25 years.
The hope is to get cruise ship travelers to spend some time in Puget Sound communities to see all they have to offer.
“To come back and go up to the great oyster bars in Ballard and see all the great maritime assets up there. Or go 0ver to Chinatown and see the Wing Luke Museum and all the authentic restaurants they have. Or check out Carnation and see all the outdoor activities they have over there.”
"They'll be able to visit some of the great shops, some of the great restaurants, shopping opportunities and to visit some of our great public assets, such as the Ballard Locks or Fisherman's Terminal," said Mike Stewart, of the Ballard Chamber of Commerce, which will receive $10,000 of the grant money.
The Ballard Chamber of Commerce will use the funds to launch a "Visit Ballard" campaign, including a newly-designed website.
"What our hope is, by leveraging these port dollars, and building out a website like "Visit Ballard," we're going to give them an opportunity to see some of the other parts of our city," Stewart added. "This really is a new marketing idea for us. So the ‘Visit Ballard’ brand that we’re building out will go further than just tourism and ship traffic. But it is a new venture for us and we’re really excited about the opportunity.”
Seattle leads the west coast in cruise ship passenger volume. For nine years in a row, more than 800,000 passengers visited here. This year, port officials believe that number could easily reach one million. And that could translate to a lot of tourism in local communities.
“We thought, ‘Ok, how can we work otherwise to increase the economic impact of the cruise industry to Washington state?' And we thought, we’ll do that by getting the passengers that go on the ship, to stay a while in Washington state, either before their trip, or after their cruise trip,” Creighton said.
Each time a cruise ship docks here, the port says it generates $2.6 million in the local economy.
It says the Seattle cruise ship industry creates over 3,700 jobs, generates $459 million in annual business revenue, and funds $17.6 million in state and local tax revenues each year.