Lowcountry symposium tackles cruise issues

The Lowcountry capped a cruise symposium Friday, calling for all sides to open a better dialogue and begin conversations about the impact of the cruise industry on Charleston.

The World Monuments Fund, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the Preservation Society of Charleston, the International Council of Monuments and Sites, the Center for Responsible Travel and the Coastal Conservation League hosted Harboring Tourism: A Symposium on Cruise Ships in Historic Port Communities, which lasted from Wednesday through Friday.


Preservation and conservation groups hosted a symposium in the Lowcountry last week and addressed the cruise industry. (Photo/Leslie Burden
Preservation and conservation groups hosted a symposium in the Lowcountry last week and addressed the cruise industry. (Photo/Leslie Burden)

Panelists discussed the economic and environmental impacts of the cruise industry, policy tools that can be used to regulate the cruise industry and other topics.

On Friday, the group heard recommendations and a recap of the conference.

Jamie Sweeting, principal of Sweeting Sustainability Solutions and a consultant for Royal Caribbean Cruises, asked the audience to empathize with different points of view.

“I think there’s been some excellent advice,” Sweeting said. “I urge you to recognize there is a different point of view.”

Sweeting asked attendees to define success for the Lowcountry’s quality of life.

“That’s not just for you in this room, but for all of the citizens in this place,” Sweeting said, adding they should represent the many and not the few.

Another attendee followed Sweeting and agreed with him, saying dialogue goes both ways and the cruise industry needs to empathize with their perspective as well and make an effort to hear their point of view.

A former New Yorker staff writer gave the symposium’s final speech. Tony Hiss has also written 13 books, most recently In Motion: The Experience of Travel.

Hiss said the time may have come for new tactics.

“It’s time to reach out to the rest of the city,” he said, adding that it is disquieting that the only black person at the symposium was from Aruba. “What are their problems? What are the smokestacks in their lives that they cannot abide?”

Hiss said cruise ships bring many contradictions to the surface. Diesel trucks aren’t allowed to idle, but a docked cruise ship can. Cruise ships snarl traffic downtown, but traffic is also stopped every time it rains hard.

“Nobody seems to be up in arms about that,” Hiss said.

Hiss also advised working collaboratively and reaching out locally and regionally.

“Communities that argue tend to solve their problems,” Hiss said. “Silent communities don’t, so you’re well on your way to solving your problems.”