Why President Trump Is Not Offering Economic Relief To Cruise Industry

Apr 13, 2020
Originally published on April 13, 2020 5:58 am
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Next, we report on an industry that is not receiving federal help. It is the cruise ship industry, which the pandemic has shut down. This global business has discovered a political downside to avoiding many U.S. taxes. NPR's Jim Zarroli explains why.

JIM ZARROLI, BYLINE: For Laura Gaborone (ph) and her husband, their two-week cruise around South America quickly turned into a nightmare. Hundreds of passengers got sick, four died. When I spoke to her a few days ago, Gaborone, who lives in Florida, was quarantined in their small cabin. Each day, a masked crew member left food at their door, then quickly fled.

LAURA GABORONE: We have no contact with anybody else on the ship, crew or other passengers. We are confined to our room 24 hours a day and have been for days.

ZARROLI: Her ship, the Zaandam, was one of several that have been forced to roam the seas looking for a country willing to let them dock. It's kind of a metaphor for the cruise industry as a whole, which is searching for whatever help it can get right now. Here's Carnival CEO Arnold Donald on CNN.

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ARNOLD DONALD: Obviously, the travel and tourism industry broadly needs the help. This has been devastating for the travel industry. It's certainly been devastating for crews as part of that.

ZARROLI: The industry is hoping to get help from different governments around the world. In the United States, President Trump sounded willing to help at first, but then he shot down the idea altogether.

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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: You know, it's very tough to make a loan to a company when they're based in a different country.

ZARROLI: The major cruise companies are all headquartered in the United States, but they're registered in places like Liberia and Panama to avoid taxes. And they mostly employ foreign workers. Ross Klein follows the cruise ship business from Memorial University of Newfoundland.

ROSS KLEIN: Their ships are not registered in the U.S. Why would they benefit from the U.S. taxpayer when they pay no U.S. taxes?

ZARROLI: Cruise ship industry officials point out that they do own property in the U.S, so they do pay some taxes and fees. Still, they've pretty much given up on federal help and are looking for money on Wall Street. Klein says the biggest companies can probably survive this downturn, but there's going to be a shakeout.

KLEIN: We may see companies disappear. We may see companies being taken over by others. We may see companies shrinking.

ZARROLI: Whatever happens, the coronavirus epidemic has been a public relations disaster. Fortunately, some cruise ship fans tend to be pretty loyal, like Laura Gaborone, whose ship finally docked in Florida on Thursday.

GABORONE: You know, obviously, I want my feet on dry land for quite some time. I don't want to be anywhere but home.

ZARROLI: Still, she says, she'll probably take a cruise again eventually. Jim Zarroli, NPR News.

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