Steamboat company touts economic impact

Published 12:03 am Friday, September 2, 2016

NATCHEZ — Representatives of the company that brought the steamboat era back to the Mississippi River met with local leaders Thursday to remind them of the millions of dollars in economic impact the steamboats carry.

The American Queen Steamboat Company invited Natchez mayor Darryl Grennell, Natchez Inc. officials and area tourism leaders for a discussion of the American Queen’s effect on the local economy.

Bringing the boat out of retirement in 2011, the American Queen Steamboat Company has operated cruises up and down the Mississippi and Tennessee rivers since.

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“We support local economies across the United States,” said Shore Excursions of America Principal Robert Buesing. “We touch America’s river town ports with populations less than 50,000.”

Natchez is one of the 37 ports the company partners with to help create and sustain local jobs, Buesing said.

Using industry data for American cruise lines, Buesing and American Queen Steamboat Vice President Gary Seabrook said the boat had an economic impact equivalent of $8.8 million to the Natchez economy in the five years of the company’s existence. The impact for 2015 was equivalent to $2.3 million, Buesing said.

American Queen Steamboat Company data indicates the American Queen brought an average of 351 guests per visit in 2015. Nearly 9,000 visitors came to Natchez during the boat’s 25 stops at the Under-the-Hill boat ramp.

As the cruise line market continues to grow, Seabrook said his company wants to be viewed as the first choice of riverboats for their partners.

In recent years, American Cruise Lines has introduced two riverboats, the American Eagle and The America. French America Lines plans to debut the Louisiane steamboat this year.

European cruise company Viking Cruises previously announced its intentions to operate Mississippi River cruises in 2017, but complications with building a new fleet appear to have postponed the company’s plans. Federal law requires U.S. river cruise vessels be built in American shipyards.

Seabrook said American Queen Steamboat Company would unveil plans for a new boat on later this month.

Seabrook said unlike other steamboat companies that want communities to build new dock facilities, American Queen Steamboat Company doesn’t need anything from their community partners.

“We don’t need much of anything from your community,” Seabrook said. “We don’t need you to build anything for us.”

“We are here. We come to your port. We want to bring more business to your port,” Seabrook said.

After the presentation, Mayor Grennell said the riverboat is important to the city.

“We are appreciative for what you do for the community,” Grennell said.