TOLEDO, Ohio - An Ohio port on Lake Erie reportedly has balked at joining an effort to revive the cruise industry on the Great Lakes.
The (Toledo) Blade (bit.ly/15CIyrl) reported Sunday that little, if any, of the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority's $283,000 marketing budget is dedicated to courting cruise ships.
According to the newspaper, the authority rejected invitations to rejoin the Great Lakes Cruising Coalition, a Kingston, Ont.-based group that markets member communities for $3,700 to $7,000 in annual fees.
Port agency board president Paul Toth said he didn't believe it was getting enough out of its membership. He said the port authority dropped out of the coalition shortly before the financial crisis of 2008, when it faced a tighter budget.
Coalition executive director Stephen Burnett said he has heard the mind-set is starting to change in Toledo but said the coalition had been told the city's emphasis was on cargo shipments, not cruise lines.
"We tried a couple of times and decided not to make a nuisance of ourselves," Burnett said. "It was the port authority."
Burnett said he sees a bright future for the Great Lakes cruise industry because as many as five cruise lines are expected to offer new trips in 2014, the most in several years.
All are to be smaller vessels, holding 100 to 400 people, with the Great Lakes seeing a net increase of 6,000 passengers.
Joe Cappel, Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority director of cargo development, said the agency's focus has been almost exclusively on cargo shipments in recent years because the cruise industry has never regained the foothold it once had in the Great Lakes region.
"With our limited resources at the port, we try to focus on things that have the most bang for the buck, which means cargo. But, no, we haven't been aggressive in marketing Toledo to the cruise-ship industry," Cappel said.
Thomas Winston, port authority vice-president of administration and chief financial officer, said $102,000 of the agency's $283,000 advertising, promotions, and marketing budget is dedicated to Toledo Express Airport, which is struggling to maintain passenger service.
Some $75,000 more is budgeted for general marketing and communications projects, while $69,000 and $37,000 are dedicated to development and seaport activities, respectively.
"There's no line item in our budget for marketing Great Lakes cruises," Cappel said.
Information from: The Blade, http://www.toledoblade.com/