An expert on the international cruise industry says Newfoundland and Labrador needs to change its thinking when it comes to the types of passengers it attracts to the province's ports.

The comments were made following a report which shows 2017 could be a potentially big year for cruise visits to St. John's.

Memorial University professor Ross Klein told CBC Radio's St. John's Morning Show that when ports such as St. John's look at what kind of cruise liners they want to attract, massive ships that carry thousands of passengers usually come to mind.

Klein said St. John's and other ports should instead be attracting smaller "expedition" ships of about 200 passengers, which actually bring tourists with more cash to spend at local businesses.

Ross Klein

Cruise expert Ross Klein says ports like St. John's should focus on attracting smaller ships with higher paying customers, rather than giant vessels run by the major cruise lines. (Courtesy Ross Klein)

"Expedition ships are more lucrative, they explore more, that's the market one really wants to exploit," said Klein.

"Ports need to be well educated on those ships where they can make huge amounts of money, and those ships where they're wasting their time and energy to try and generate income — because they are largely different."

Bigger not always better

Klein said people on the small expedition ships are usually spending $700 or more per day for their cruise, and that they tend to stay in port longer and spend more time exploring the cities and areas where they dock.

He said cities will often try to attract large cruise liners, but municipalities need to listen to other views and not to what the big cruise lines tell them.


The cruise ship Boudicca visiting St. John's in 2016, carrying 1,209 passengers and crew. (Submitted by Mandip Garcha )

Klein said cities should instead work on targeting tourists with the most money to spend, such as those on expedition vessels, instead of just always going for the big cruises liners without thinking it through.

"We get mesmerized by the big cruise ships, because they are impressive to look at," he said. "We forget all about these other smaller companies that make very good income and are doing quite well, and are good sources for us to have business."

Deceiving numbers

Cruise Newfoundland and Labrador says it's anticipating nearly 100,000 passenger visits to St. John's this year, up from 50,000 in 2016.

Klein is cautiously optimistic about that projection, and said those numbers can be misleading because there are always changes as the year goes on.

"The weather sets in, cruise lines change their itineraries, companies go out of business and all of a sudden we get far fewer than we are told are going to be there," he said.

"As well, let's say one cruise ship has 200 passengers, if it visits 10 ports they are counted at 2,000 passengers. So we need to look at what these numbers mean."

With files from the St. John's Morning Show