As part of the 2020 national election, residents of Key West, Florida participated in a referendum to vote on the future of cruise ships arriving to the Port of Key West.
The vote resulted in 63.33% favoring limits on the number of disembarking cruise guests to 1,500 per day, while 60.69% voted in favor of prohibiting cruise ships carrying 1,300 guests or more. Additionally, 81.20% voted in favor of giving priority to cruise lines with the best environmental records.
In 2019, Key West saw over 400 cruises ships disembarking just under one million passengers. Despite these large passenger numbers, which accounts for almost half of Key West’s total visitors, cruise passengers only provide 7% of tourist spending. For residents of Key West, they felt the environmental impact was not worth the minimal economic gain.
These restrictions, if challenges from several parties are unsuccessful, will turn the Port of Key West into a niche port of call for a very small selection of cruise ships. Of the 40 or so cruise ships scheduled to arrive in Key West in 2020, less than half would be allowed under the new ship size and passengers limits.
In the end, this move may help Key West balance cruise ship tourism with environmental concerns, while providing more economic impact. Smaller cruise ships tend to attract more affluent passengers that may be willing to pay a premium with possible increased docking fees while also spending more while ashore.