BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. — In the midst of National Tourism Week, there is more hope now in the transportation sector than there was a year ago.
What You Need To Know
- Transportation companies that took people to and from Port Canaveral took a big hit during the pandemic
- With no cruise ships arriving or departing, business mostly dried up, business owners said
- They are hopeful, though, that the ships will soon return
Over the past year, companies that shuttled people to and from Port Canaveral have suffered significant financial setbacks due to the lack of cruising from the Space Coast.
The president of one of those players, Go Port, said the pandemic caught their industry off guard, as it did for many others.
“My partner and myself have planned for many different things to happen in the cruise industry, whether or not it was an oil deal or couldn’t go out of a port or something like that. But we never imagined a pandemic,” said Go Port president Matt Phillips.
His company was founded in the wake of the 2008 financial crash as an internet destination management company after he and his wife saw the resilience of the cruise industry.
But COVID-19 proved to be a much higher hurdle to leap, bringing cruising to a screeching halt and much of his business along with it.
The company created the first Tesla charging parking lot designed for port traffic in late 2019. Phillips said they’re having to eat the costs of that for now since they didn’t feel comfortable transporting people in a private car setting just yet.
He said they’ve received numerous indications from the CDC and the cruise industry that things may pick up again, but each time that goal has been moved.
“Not to say that the industry cried wolf, but we kept being told this was going to happen and it kept being backed up," Phillips said. "So we’re just now waiting until we get a solid commitment on how things are going to go with the cruise industry.”
Another business, Park Port Canaveral Transportation, said they are also in a holding pattern until the cruise ships get going again.
“We’re really in the mode of supporting the industry right now," said Park Port Canaveral Transportation COO Eric Garvey. "We’ll do basically whatever it takes from following all the CDC protocols, everything it takes to get the industry going,”
Both men agree that while it’s been challenging, their vendors and partners have been overall patient as they wait for things to pick up once again.
“It’ll probably take us a couple of years to get out of debt no doubt because our first priority is to our clients and to take care of them. There’s no doubt about it. They’ve been great with us and we’re going to be great with them,” Phillips said.
CDC officials said the cruise industry may be able to return as early as mid-July. So far, no cruise lines have given a hard date on when they will return to Port Canaveral to take passengers.