More than 10,000 people so far this year have stepped off a riverboat cruise ship and visited downtown Baton Rouge, says Courtney Taylor, director of destination services for Visit Baton Rouge.
There are currently 113 cruise stops planned for Baton Rouge this year, up from last year’s 89.
The increased number of docking boats, says Susan Miles, co-owner and tour manager of All About Baton Rouge Tours and Red Stick Adventures, has had a “huge impact” on downtown businesses. Her impact assessment is largely anecdotal as hard figures aren’t readily available.
Red Stick Adventure Tours, which provides a step-on guide service with city tours and premium excursions for riverboat passengers visiting the city.
“The riverboats being in Baton Rouge not only benefit businesses, such as our business, but also museums and gift shops and restaurants, especially downtown,” says Miles, adding she’s also seen an increase in small bus sightseeing tours. “We have found many riverboat guests are looking for more private excursions with less people on them, or where they might do different activities that aren’t necessarily provided by the ship.”
American Cruise Lines is one of two riverboat companies that dock at downtown’s paperclip dock site and will launch an additional boat, American Harmony, in August, adding 15 stops to Baton Rouge’s dock schedule.
American Queen Steamboat Company, which operates two boats that stop downtown, will add another vessel, American Countess, to its fleet in January.
Every week, Taylor says two to three boats stop in Baton Rouge holding between 150 to 180 passengers. One boat, which can hold 450 passengers, averages about 350 passengers during its Capital Region visits.
Store sales this year have increased 13% at the LSU Museum of Art, with Executive Director Daniel Stetson telling the Downtown Development Commission in May that credit goes to the increase of visitors from the riverboat cruises.
Though he doesn’t have any stats, DDD Executive Director Davis Rhorer says when the boats are in town, downtown feels it.
“I know its impactful because I see the people on the streets walking,” Davis says, adding his staff will often help the visitors find authentic south Louisiana food. “This industry is vital to business downtown.”