Cruise ship docks in downtown Baton Rouge, the first in over a year
BATON ROUGE - It was a rainy but warm welcome for tourists hopping off the American Jazz cruise ship and into their tour bus.
"We are all thrilled to meet and greet and welcome these visitors," said Karron Alford, with Visit Baton Rouge.
Despite the weather, their excitement couldn't be masked. It's the first Mississippi River cruise ship to dock here in more than a year.
"The American Jazz is here. It's a ship with American Cruise Lines. We're very excited to welcome the river boats back," Alford said.
Because of the pandemic, 145 cruises that were set to drop off visitors along the Mississippi River were canceled. This in turn dried up hundreds of thousands of dollars for local businesses.
"The hardest hit industry during the pandemic has been the hospitality industry. The fact that we have this business coming back in town, or at least a certain amount of business that was lost over the year, is very significant," said Paul Arrigo, CEO of Visit Baton Rouge.
The ships have a smaller number of passengers on board this year in order to limit the spread of COVID-19.
"We hope that the number of boats and passengers will increase contingent on the COVID restrictions," Arrigo said.
But tourism officials are still hopeful the boats will bring a boost to the local economy.
"These visitors are making a huge economic impact to our city," Alford said.
Following American Jazz's arrival, the American Duchess cruise ship is expected to dock Saturday. Tourism officials expect each passenger to spend about $158 on average during their stay, which adds up quickly for the local economy.
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