Top executives from Orlando International Airport and Port Canaveral met on Wednesday, trying to explore opportunities for growth.
In 2008, OIA reached the high watermark as almost 38 million passengers passed through its gates in one year. As the recession began to squeeze tourism, airlines cut the number of domestic flights and passenger count fell by 4 million the following year. That hit was felt 40 miles away at Port Canaveral.
"As our cruise business grows, cutting back flights can negatively impact our ability to grow," said John Walsh, Port Canaveral CEO.
Walsh said he is forecasting an incredible 25 percent increase in cruise passenger traffic over the next year-and-a-half. Most will need to fly through Orlando.
With Orlando barely recovering from the recession, the boards from both the airport and the seaport held a joint meeting for the first time ever to share ideas.
They are two huge economic engines," Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer said of OIA and Port Canaveral. "There is every reason for us to be collaborative and coordinating our efforts."
Mayor Dyer sits on the airport's 7-member board and said the two bodies are looking to lure more airlines into Orlando by mutually marketing cargo flight opportunities. The port is investing heavily in cargo container infrastructure and wants those cargo ships to begin operations next year. Those goods would need a distribution point, like an airport.
"That solution is good income for the airlines," Walsh said. "And it can solve the cruise problem."