Letter to Editor: Cruise ship economic impact overstated

To the Editor:

I would like to expound on the Gabe & McConnon economic study that was engineered to put huge figures in the headlines by Cruise Lines International Association and then suggest this misleading deception be deleted from the town’s website.

A recent Portland Press Herald analysis of the Gabe & McConnon study was made public in an article in that newspaper on June 15, 2018. It found that Gabe & McConnon had greatly overstated passenger spending, and the economic activity in Portland by a whopping 60 percent.

“A careful scrutiny of that Portland Press Herald’s analysis backs this claim,” said Colin Woodard. This staff writer for the Portland Press Herald, noted to be a nominee for a Pulitzer Prize in Explanatory Reporting, goes on to describe the highly misleading Gabe & McConnon study with phrases like: smoke and mirrors, methodological shortcomings, and inaccurate assumptions.

In the Oct. 27, 2017 edition of the Islander, resident Keith Jones of Bar Harbor, a noted lawyer who has argued more than twenty cases before the US Supreme Court, voiced the same sentiments when he analyzed the Gabe & McConnon study and described it using the following terms: double counting, amateurish, problematic, major flaws, grossly overstated. He claimed a huge 75 percent exaggeration.

Right now, over in Rockland, that town is looking for some economic facts while they assess the value of cruise ships. They too analyzed the Gabe & McConnon study and found all the previous criticisms spot on. They have specifically stated that they would not use the UMO economics professors and are looking elsewhere for advice.

In February 2017, out of curiosity, I went searching for that $20.2 million. It wasn’t long before I found the $20.2 million was concocted by using a tangled web of double talk, using inaccurate economic assumptions. It was so out of whack with reality, that I can say it was indeed a fantasy to appease the aims of the cruise ship industry and had nothing economically to do with Bar Harbor.

By the end of the 2018 season, I had observed, up close, a total of 11,000 passengers, and the paltry number, one in five, of retail packages they carried. After analyzing the stores those shopping bags came from, the prices of the goods sold at those stores, and then analyzing all the other avenues of cruise ship revenues, I came up with a 99 percent exaggeration for Bar Harbor. One percent of $20.2 million stays in Bar Harbor’s pocket at the end of the year, which comes out to somewhere south of $200,000 and possibly as little as $130,000.

My rather lengthy detailed updated analyses can be found on page 11 of the Sept. 6, 2018 Islander.

Finally let me say, all over town our lodging industry, including one of the major hoteliers downtown, are receiving too many land-based customer complaints about cruise ships for one reason or the other, and it appears from the number of complaints that we are losing more value than $200,000.

Maybe a million per year of lost, in-your-pocket, net profit, especially from the lodging and restaurant sector. At up to 50 times more valuable in terms of net value, it only takes losing a relative few of our land-based customers to wipe out any meager gains from cruise ships. The land base lays the golden egg.

Once more, the aforementioned, Mr. Keith A. Jones and Mr. Colin Woodard, who have seriously analyzed the Gabe & McConnon cruise ship surveys, used these words to describe what they found: “smoke and mirrors, inaccurate assumptions, methodological shortcomings, double counting, amateurish, problematic, grossly overstated, major flaws,” and I would add, disingenuous and misleading.

So I trust the town council, or whoever is in charge of such things, will remove this deception from the town website.

Jim O’Connell

Bar Harbor

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