The Carnival Triumph cruise ship takes off down the Mississippi River from the Port of New Orleans in New Orleans.

The port of New Orleans was the reason that Thomas Jefferson wanted Louisiana a couple of centuries ago, and since the famous land deal of the early 19th-century America has benefited enormously.

But the Port of New Orleans — capital P — is also a continuing and tremendous contributor to the economic health of both the state and the nation. All are aware of the immense amount of shipping of goods down the Mississippi River and importing the same from around the world.

The port is also a significant contributor to tourism.

The Port of New Orleans set a record for cruise ship passengers in 2018, with more than 1 million travelers. At nearly 1.2 million cruise passengers, the 2.3 percent increase from 2017 is significant. Last year was the fifth consecutive year the figure was at least 1 million.

The port says it had 235 passenger ships in 2018 and is the sixth busiest cruise port in the United States.

For the many businesses who benefit, the increase in passengers is very good news. It’s good for hotels and restaurants, food wholesalers as well.

The Ourso College of Business at LSU produced an economic impact study that found cruise passengers and ship crews spend an estimated $129.1 million in the Crescent City region each year.

The 4,000-passenger Norwegian Breakaway became the port's largest occupancy cruise ship when it arrived in November. It's set to make seven-day cruises through April until its newer sister ship, the Norwegian Getaway, replaces it in November.

In early 2020, Disney Cruise Line will have a homeport in Louisiana for the first time when the 2,700-passenger Disney Wonder embarks on six cruises in the Caribbean, the port said.

But as Mr. Jefferson was well aware, the vital importance of New Orleans extended far above the city itself, but along the river. A growing trade in passenger riverboats docking from Baton Rouge to New Orleans, and at many communities along River Road, is a boost to tourism beyond the Crescent City, famous as it is.

In 2018, there were 30,298 passengers on the five riverboats based in New Orleans.

Tourists continue to want to see historic plantations and sites like Huey P. Long’s State Capitol. Communities along the river are benefiting from that tourist trade as well.

Some of these travelers are international visitors, particularly welcome. “The international visitor tends to stay longer and spend more,” says Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser, the state’s top tourism official.

We welcome this growth and encourage communities to continue to make arrangements, whether tours or other services, so that folks have a great time in Louisiana and New Orleans.