Report says cruise ships brought about 250K visitors in 2022

File photo

By Charles M. Kelly

Approximately 113 cruise ships brought approximately 250,000 passengers to Avalon in 2022, according to a recent staff report to the City Council. According to a footnote in the report, “December 2022 activity estimated based on scheduled activity as of December 1, 2022 at 85% occupancy.”

“That number may change once the December figures come in,” said Finance Director Matthew `Baker.

Baker on Dec. 20 presented the annual report on cruise ship activity to the City Council. The report was from Baker and Harbor Master Orne Carstarphen.

Baker told the council that the cruise ship visits generated about $1.28 million in wharfage revenue and $10 to $15 million in taxable sales.

“For all cruise ships, the City of Avalon currently charges a $5.00 harbor wharfage fee for the use of harbor facilities, levied upon 100% of the manifest passengers, excluding persons employed on the vessel,” according to the Baker/Carstarphen report.

According to the report, cruise ship revenues account for approximately 15% of the Harbor Department’s budget.

“In addition to the tax revenues generated, cruise ship passengers contribute an estimated $10 million of taxable sales activity for businesses located in the City,” according to the report.

The cruise ship passengers also apparently contributed to hospital funding.

“On November 3, 2020, Avalon residents approved Measure H authorizing an additional tax on cruise ship, ferry, and aircraft passengers to fund the Catalina Island Medical Center,” according to the Baker/Carstarphen report.

“Beginning in April 2022, the City started collecting an additional $0.50 per passenger fee from cruise ships. The Measure H tax is scheduled to increase to $1.00 per passenger beginning in April 2023 and further increasing to $2.00 per passenger beginning in April 2024,” according to the report.

Baker told the council that the city collected more than $100,000 in Measure H funds.

Turning to the 2023 forecast, Baker reported that 121 cruise ships are scheduled to arrive in 2023. (Acording to the Baker/Carstarphen report, 135 cruise ships were scheduled in 2022; 113 actually arrived.)

According to Baker, the city is forecasting $245,000 in Measure H funds.

The Baker/Carstarphen report also addressed the possible impact of cruise ship visitors on the city’s landfill. “During the development of the cruise ship policy, data available to analyze the impacts of cruise ship visitors on landfill tonnage was inconclusive,” according to the report.

“Daily landfill tonnage could not serve as a reliable indicator considering certain commercial locations are not collected seven days a week and the timing of pickups may not accurately reflect when the trash was generated (e.g. trash generated Sunday evening would be collected on a Monday),” according to the report.

“However, considering no cruise ships arrived in Avalon during the months of April 2020 through August 2021, Staff were able to compare visitor counts to bales landfilled by month to assess the impact of tourism on landfill capacity,” according to the report.

“Over the 30 month period, the City added an average of 300 tons of bales each month to the Pebbly Beach Landfill. During the months with the most significant restrictions on non-essential travel (March 2020 — May 2020, December 2020 — February 2022), the City added an average of 215 tons, or approximately 70% of the average landfilled amount over the entire period,” according to the Baker/Carstarphen report.

Their report went on to say that the nature of the pandemic and the small sample made it difficult to draw definitive conclusions from the data.

“July 2021 and June 2022 saw comparable levels of visitors to the City, with 123,901 visitors in July 2022 and 125,942 visitors in June 2022,” according to the report.

“No cruise ship visitors arrived in June 2021 and 28,963 cruise ship visitors arrived in June 2022,” according to the report.

“However, bales landfilled in July 2021 (472 tons) exceeded bales Iandfilled in June 2022 (403 tons) by approximately 15%, suggesting that cruise ship visitors may generate less waste compared to other visitors,” according to the report.The council also discussed a proposal from the Carnival Cruise Line to bring nine large ships to Catalina in 2024.