Assessing + Managing Cruise Ship Tourism in Historic Ports: Case Study Charleston, South Carolina

Historic Preservation Thesis

Lauren Perez Hoogkamer

Jorge Otero-Pailos + Clara Irazabal, advisors

Since 1970, the cruise industry has grown by more than 2,100 percent; cruise ships can now carry more than 6,000 passengers. Preservationists and planners managing some of the world’s most emblematic historic port cities— including Falmouth, Jamaica; Dubrovnik, Croatia; and Venice, Italy— have identified negative impacts caused by the surge in cruise ship traffic and infrastructure. Yet cruise ship markets continue to be developed within historic port cities without any assessment or regulation. This thesis was the first comprehensive study that explicitly positioned this preservation planning challenge within the field of heritage tourism management. It was also the first study to analyze international examples of the adverse effects created by cruise tourism in historic port cities, as well as present a list of tools that can be applied to assessing and managing impacts, building on the theory that development in and around historic districts should stay within limits of acceptable change.

Furthermore, this thesis used Charleston, South Carolina as a case study and created a framework for an assessment and management plan that would allow the city to reap the benefits of cruise tourism while mitigating costs and protecting invaluable historic and cultural resources. Charleston is an important case because it is the first and only historic port city in the United States to gain international attention for opposing the cruise industry specifically on the grounds that it impacts the city’s historic character. Charleston has no regulatory control over port activity, which is governed by the state, but adjacent to the city’s historic districts. It is currently being transformed into a new cruise terminal without any preservation or environmental review. This thesis drew on research on the relationship between cruise tourism and historic ports in order to anticipate the impacts of Charleston’s proposed terminal.