Many benefits flow from a port call by 5,000 cruise ship passengersThe photo on this newspaper's Tuesday front page was nothing short of extraordinary. Lori Assa's shot, taken from the Columbia River Bar Pilots' helicopter, depicted three cruise ships moored at the Port of Astoria docks and in the shipping channel.

Watershed moments in a town or region's history are seldom announced with such clarity. As Kate Ramsayer depicted in her Tuesday article, downtown retailers felt the impact of this windfall of tourists. Other destinations such as Seaside, Cannon Beach and even the Mount St. Helens visitors center benefited.

This was not a fluke. A similar array of cruise ships will return May 5.

The benefits of a port call such as this range well beyond the immediate economic payoff of cash in the tills of restaurants and shops and visitor counts at museums. This was an opportunity to show off a town and a larger region to a broad array of people. Business researchers have learned that a large share of business relocation decisions begin during leisure travel. That is especially potent when many professionals can locate anywhere there is Internet access.

The reborn Port of Astoria deserves considerable credit for making this happen. It is also clear that cruise ships over the past few years have learned that Astoria is an attractive port of call.