special session 1: corporate social responsibility (CSR) & sustainability in the cruise industry


  • Francesco Parola – University of Genoa (Italy), Department of Economics and Business & CIELI
  • Gordon Wilmsmeier – Los Andes University (Colombia), Faculty of Administration
  • Michael Dooms  – Vrije Universiteit Brussel (Belgium), Department of Business, Faculty of Economic and Social Sciences
  • Enrico Musso – University of Genoa (Italy), Department of Economics and Business & CIELI


The overwhelming expansion of the cruise industry in the last three decades has stimulated the debate on the trade-off between positive and negative effects originating from this business at economic, social and environmental levels. 

Job creation, expenditures from passengers, crew and cruise operators’ procurements, investments for building/developing cruise terminals, and the growth of cruise/coastal tourism and transport infrastructures and services in port destinations constitute the most valuable positive impacts on ports, cities and local communities. Relatedly, the cruise industry positively contributes to destinations through the economic effects originating from its indirect impact on passengers’ intention to return and to recommend the destinations to relatives and friends.

Instead, the negative effects of the cruise industry on society and local communities include environmental, socio-cultural and economic impacts. As concern negative environmental effects on tourist destinations academic literature emphasizes, among others, water consumption, wastewater treatment, emissions from engines, effluents solid waste, impacts on biodiversity and conservation are well-known risks the industry has to dwell with. Socio-cultural issues comprise human rights protection, employment conditions, health and safety concerns, product responsibility, and sociocultural authenticity. Moreover, potential negative economic impacts include concerns on sustainable supply chains, equitability of arrangements with shore excursions providers, increasing competition between neighbour ports, growth in urban traffic congestion, risks originating from the new ownership structure of cruise terminals. Shifts in corporate settings, indeed are expected to determine an increase of the income generated by cruise corporations not fairly distributed to local communities.

The understanding of the real impacts of this business on ports, cities and local communities is made even more urgent by the cutting-edge trends that are currently shaping the industry, such as the increase in vessel size, the rise of passenger volumes and crew’s members per single call as well as the expansion of port destinations included in cruise itineraries. These path-changing factors potentially provoke the risk of overcrowding port facilities and of pollution-related issues which make environmental protection a stringent priority.

Moreover, the development of new cruise terminal facilities and the upsizing of the existing ones for keeping the pace with market trends are imposing additional investments and costs for the hosting ports. As for avoiding public spending, some Port Authorities (PAs) have involved international cruise lines and terminal operators in financing, building and operating cruise terminals, some scholars recognize the risk of unbalanced bargaining power relations between cruise companies on one side and PAs and port destinations, on the other. 

Under multiple stakeholder pressure (e.g. consumers, investors, policy makers, local communities, etc.), international cruise companies, cruise terminal operators and PAs involved in the business are therefore awarding growing attentions to a number of issues related to sustainability and corporate social responsibility (CSR), to legitimate their activities and managing the relationships with most salient stakeholders more effectively.

The organizers of the special section entitled “Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and Sustainability in the cruise industry: theory and practice” are looking for original manuscripts which ground on well-established theories in tourism management and economics and propose practical approaches to feeding the debate on the impact of the cruise industry on port, cities and local communities, emphasizing the role of CSR and sustainability for improving the relationships among cruise lines, terminal operators and related stakeholders.

tentative topics

  • Corporate social responsibility, corporate social actions (CSA) and CSA portfolio of cruise lines and cruise terminal operators
  • Stakeholder Relationship Management (SRM) and legitimization in the cruise industry
  • Balancing positive and negative impact of cruise operations for ports, cities and local communities
  • The impact of mega-vessels and rising cruise traffic demand on territories and relevant stakeholders
  • Managing potential environmental risks in port destinations: water management, wastewater treatment, emissions from engines, effluents solid waste, biodiversity and conservation
  • Energy management issues and viable technologies for making the cruise industry greener and more sustainable 
  • Human rights protection, employment conditions, health and safety concerns, product responsibility, and sociocultural authenticity
  • Port Authority investments and overcapacity concerns in cruise terminals
  • Entry of cruise terminal operators and bargaining power games with leading cruise lines
  • Circular Economy in the cruise domain

Leave a Reply