Cruise tourism is a growing industry in the Great Lakes St. Lawrence maritime transportation system. The investment cards below describe programs and policies to promote tourism in the Great Lakes. 

U.S. Customs Clearance for Cruise Passengers

Cruise tourism on the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River is projected to grow in coming years and could generate economic benefits for communities hosting cruise vessels and businesses that support the industry. However, a lack of customs clearance facilities for cruise passengers and inconsistent application of customs regulations could hinder this expansion. Cruise operators, passengers, and port authorities require a consistent and efficient regulatory framework that can provide certainty and ensure the long-term viability and growth of regional cruising. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) requires specific facilities in which to ensure security and safety while screening passengers. To address these needs, a coalition comprising governors, port authorities, cruise operators, and other stakeholders is working with CBP to develop a long-term solution. The proposed plan includes a system of four permanent locations for processing cruise passengers in the U.S. portion of the Great Lakes St. Lawrence system: Cleveland, Ohio; Detroit, Michigan; Duluth, Minnesota; and Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. Facilities already exist in Detroit and Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, which can be used for cruise passengers. To complete the regional network, CBP is working with port authorities in Cleveland and Duluth to identify potential customs clearance facility locations and to discuss specific requirements.

Cruise the St. Lawrence

Cruise the Saint Lawrence was created to promote cruise tourism in Quebec, and includes the nine cruise vessel ports of call on the St. Lawrence River. The main mandate of Cruise the Saint Lawrence is to build a brand for cruise tourism in the region by defining and coordinating development efforts and partner/port of call attributes.

Specific marketing materials and efforts from Cruise the St. Lawrence include:

  • Familiarization tours for members and partners.
  • Reservation agent training.
  • Itinerary planning help for cruise lines.
  • Advertising services cruise lines offering itineraries on the St. Lawrence.

Cruise the Great Lakes

The Regional Maritime Strategy noted that the cruise tourism could generate substantial economic benefits for the Great Lakes. Cruise the Great Lakes is a response to this potential market, and is an international partnership intended to bring more cruise passengers to the Great Lakes. The partnership was organized by the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Governors and Premiers in 2018, with the goal of creating a unique brand to market the Great Lakes to both consumers and cruise operators. Cruise the Great Lakes’ members include the provinces of Ontario and Quebec, and states of Michigan, Illinois, Minnesota, and Pennsylvania. Other partners include:

  • Cruise operators such as Victory Cruise Lines, Blount Small Ship Adventures, and Pearl Seas Cruises
  • Tourism agencies and chambers of commercesuch as Visit Detroit, Visit Duluth, Muskegon County Convention and Visitors Bureau, and Tourism Thunder Bay.
  • Port authorities or agencies including the Port of Cleveland, Port of Milwaukee, and Detroit/Wayne County Port Authority.

Cruise the Great Lakes is currently developing its brand and implementing its marketing strategy through a variety of marketing efforts including:

  • Creating a centralized website with basic information about cruising in the Great Lakes and all that the region has to offer;
  • Engaging in digital marketing work including web search optimization and advertorial and editorial content about cruise itineraries and the regional cruising experience;
  •  Creating printed materials, such as maps, to geographically locate the Great Lakes within North America, and to pinpoint each active port offering activities for cruise passengers;
  •  Hosting familiarization tours; and,
  • Organizing and participating in events to enhance visibility such as press events with elected officials.

St. Lawrence Economic Development Council (SODES)

The St. Lawrence Economic Development Council (SODES) is a non-profit organization created in 1985 with the mission to “protect and promote the economic interests of the St. Lawrence maritime community from a sustainable development perspective.” Members of the organization include shipping carriers, ports, private terminals, provincial and federal governments, marine services and equipment suppliers, and marine industry associations.

To fulfill its mission, SODES has engaged in a wide range of marketing and outreach efforts, such as the ongoing Brought to you by ship – My river, my provider! promotional campaign, which includes outreach such as:

Public surveys commissioned by SODES have indicated that since the start of this campaign, more Quebec residents know about the maritime industry, and these residents have a more positive perception of the industry. Other SODES marketing efforts include art exhibitions and scholarships.

In addition to marketing work, SODES supports maritime interests through project such as:

SODES’ promotional Brought to you by ship – My river, my provider! campaign will continue into 2019, as will its support and engagement in projects like the Maritime Information System.