How Important Is “Home Porting” Of Cruise Ships To Our Economy?

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What is the real definition of Home Porting and how exactly does Barbados reap meaningful economic benefits?

Two tourism related matters have especially caught my eye over the last week and I think they both need greater consideration.

First, remarks from a tourism industry veteran who in my humble opinion qualified for the lifetime achievement award decades ago. Even though he sits on the National Tourism Marketing Committee he stated that there had not been a cruise ship conversion* programme for six years.

Secondly, more recently, from a Government spokesperson, highlighting that P & O’s new ship, the Ventura, which is currently under construction, will visit Barbados every 15 days or so, from November 7th, 2008 until 13th March 2009.

Senator Grant specifically mentioned that this ship will be ‘homeporting’ in Barbados, but my understanding is that aircraft will fly the bulk of the passengers into Grantley Adams where they will be immediately transferred to the ship. (see Nation News article Megaship Cruising In Next Year)

On the ship’s return to Barbados, as their website points out, ‘Finally you arrive back in the quintessential isle of Barbados, before your overnight flight back to the UK’.

The Senator also made a great play of that it ‘will require 13 wide-bodied aircraft in order to facilitate passengers to be taken from the airport to Bridgetown Port’.

The Ventura will have a normal operating capacity of 3,096 passengers, but is extremely unlikely that two engine aircraft like the B777 will be used to fly such large numbers. More probably, it will be economy configured charter aircraft like the A330 which could seat up to 350 persons, so at best the ’13 wide-bodied aircraft’ is a bit misleading.

Finally, what are the real economic benefits to Barbados for these massive movements of people from airport to seaport?

Over a year ago, the Minister of Tourism announced that the BTA had brokered a deal with Carnival Corporation to ‘guarantee’ a minimum of 400,000 cruise ship passengers per year over a three year period. The Minister refused to give details of exactly how much financial support was given to the 12 brands under Carnival’s ownership, but many of us thought that this subsidy was to drive much needed cruise ship traffic in the summer months.

Clearly, many other Caribbean ports will ‘benefit’ from the arrival of new mega ships like the Ventura.

But have they paid Carnival the same subsidies, simply to attract additional passengers in the short winter season, where the ship operators have little choice other than to ply the Caribbean Seas?

We really have to define what homeporting actually means and exactly what contribution it makes to our tourism sector.

How exactly we can hope to convert thousands of cruise ship passengers while enroute from the airport to the seaport is another story!

Adrian Loveridge
22 November 2007

* conversion programme (This word was misspelled in our original copy. We hope we inserted the correct one in its place!)

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Superliner Ventura – So Nice That Folks Will Mostly Stay On Board?

After reading Adrian’s article, we decided to look into the new superliner Ventura. Nice vessel!

Perhaps so nice that many passengers will want to stay on board for activities.

Ask yourself… you have booked a package tour – flying from Britain to board the Ventura in Bridgetown. You stay up all night at home – packing and typical last minute stuff, then head for the airport. Fly across the Atlantic, land at Grantley Adams and make your way through customs. Luggage. Board the bus for a sleepy-eyed drive to the port. Get checked onto the ship, make your way to your cabin. Wait for your luggage to arrive. Shower. Feel like sleeping, but you’re too excited about the ship and so are the kids…

Are you really going to step off the ship to “explore Bridgetown” even if there is time before sailing? I don’t think so!

Here’s some information from the P & O Cruises website (link here) to let you know what awaits you on board Ventura…

– 3,600 passenger capacity
– 1,200 crew
– 1,546 cabins, 880 with balconies)
– 11 places to eat
– 12 places to drink
– 3 places to dance
– 5 places for live music
– two-tier stage
– two show lounges
– Nightclub
– 5 pools
– 6 jacuzzis
– Supervised children’s activities so mom and dad can enjoy themselves!

And finally, Metropolis…

Welcome to Metropolis, situated at the aft of the ship on Deck 18. This unique venue will bring you all the excitement of the world’s coolest destinations. An innovative 20 metre floor-to-ceiling video wall will display dramatic cityscapes, so you might gaze ‘out’ upon Paris, New York or Sydney as you sip your favourite apéritif.

Back In Bridgetown

Now you are back in port after a week or two on the vessel – gambled, ate and partied to your heart’s content. Shopped on board for some gifts for those stuck at home… and you have 2 free hours to “explore Bridgetown” before the buses leave for the airport.

Home Porting vs Port Visit – What Is The Difference To Our Economy?

Is it possible that a “port visit” by a cruise ship that is not “home ported” here might create far more local economic impact for the ordinary small business? When a ship is home ported, most of the ship’s provisions arrives in containers from outside Barbados – with little benefit to the small business.

How much economic activity does home porting really create? It seems to me that there should be some good and hard statistics somewhere – but like everything the government spends our tax dollars on, that’s secret!

The upside of hosting cruise liners is that many folks discover after their first cruise that they mostly enjoy the port calls – so if they like Barbados they might return for their next holiday. So why haven’t we had a “passenger conversion” programmed for the last six years?

That’s a government secret too!

9 Comments

Filed under Barbados, Barbados Tourism, Business, Traveling and Tourism

9 responses to “How Important Is “Home Porting” Of Cruise Ships To Our Economy?

  1. La De Da

    Homeporting has benefits, but clearly these apply to a narrow segment e.g Pine Hill Dairy might sell some juices, but the vast quantity of supplies arrive from overseas in containers–The people who own busses obviously get some dollars and so does the Port. However if we were to apply some “creative arrangements” when we negotiate with the Cruiseline (because they come here as Barbados can “deliver” on the services they require), such as have the Ship stay in Barbados for the first day (or the last) as one of the destination visits. Then we will be getting it both ways.

    –Don’t let anybody fool themselves, Cruise Lines are some of the most selfish business people to deal with.They have a concept which is central to their format called “MAXIMIZING ON BOARD REVENUE”– They really don’t want the passengers to get off those ships at all, because if you think of it, they have everything on board needed for a very relaxing holiday. Most of the Lines own their own “Islands”, and increasingly they use them for at least a day on some cruises, thereby “keeping it all for themselves”.

    Next thing, in recent years they leave port at 5 p.m. and go outside and basically “drift” to the next destination. This is so they can open their shops and the Casino (no other reason exists, although they will tell you that they have to leave early to “make” the next port on time and to save fuel)–Just think of it, if our negotiators were to let them open their shops and Casino at 5 p.m in the Bridgetown Port and sail at 10 or 11 p.m–I bet our business’ that want to ,e.g restaurants and others would pick up plenty extra business. This might need some special legislation, but no locals would be involved in the gambling on board, and the extra “pickings” on shore would be well worth it.–Just a suggestion!!!

  2. St. Lawrence Hotel Worker

    What does moderation mean?

    ******************

    BFP replies

    It means would you kindly read the tab “What is comment moderation?” up at the top. See it?

    Cliverton

  3. gunslinger

    the amount of money injected into the local economy by a “homeporting” ship VS a regular “port visit’ is more than double.
    quite a few “homeporting” ships spend two days in port right now as will the Ventura, so we do “get it both ways”.
    although i’m not too happy about how that sounds – wink wink, winkity blinkity blank.

    pine hill does alot more than “sell some juices”. BICO is big, Banks Beer, Mount Gay rum, etc etc.

    close to 100 people find part time work invloved with the logistics of moving 1500 people between the port and airport in a 3 to 4 hr period. with the ventura that will probably dbl to 200.

    alot of people make money from homeporting.

  4. Adrian Loveridge

    gunslinger…

    I accept that there is greater revenue benefit from homeporting but can you explain the article in the Barbados Advocate today (Monday 10th December 2007 entitled ‘Survey: Long-stay visitors spending more’ ?

    We are told, by the Minister of Tourism, that ‘Barbados is the largest homeport in the world’ —

    ‘Spending by long stay visitors last year increased by $145 million to reach and overall $1.9 billion according to the Balance of Payments Survey released the the Central Bank of Barbados.
    The BOP revealed that while the increased expenditure in 2006 was lower than the amount for the previous year, it rose overall.
    It said the spending also reflected the higher rates of inflation and expansion of tourist arrivals.
    In contrast, expenditure by excursionists continued to fall, the survey found.
    That expentiture totalled $63.4 million.
    Last year Barbados welcomed 562,558 long-stay and 539,092 cruise ship visitors’.

    Key words:

    ‘reflected the higher rates of inflation’
    ‘expenditure by excursionists continued to fall’
    ‘expansion of tourist arrivals’

    So, how can you justify the statement ‘Long-stay visitors spending more’ ?

    If cruise ship passengers are spending less, then the long-stay must be spending more.
    But if you do not take into account 7 or 8% inflation, then if there really are more long-stay visitor arrivals, in fact they are spending LESS.

  5. avril macintosh

    I have some friends getting off a cruise ship when it terminates it’s cruise here in Barbados. They wish to spend the last night at my home but are not sure if they will get permission from the ship!!
    Seems they are held captive to the bitter end.

  6. Natallie

    Dear Adrian,
    Thanks for the article, but I dont think it successfully defines Homeporting. Further information on what homeporting entails would be greatly appreciated
    Thanks

  7. keith

    I believe that homeporting is a real problem, as less money is being spent on the island as everything that the passengers need are onboard, which cuases the local people to earn less.

  8. Adrian Loveridge

    Sorry Natallie.. only just seen your comments.

    TRUE home porting is good for Barbados, where a ship is based here with passengers joining the vessel , arriving a few days earlier, stay in a hotel, then join the ship cruise and hopefully stay in land based accomodation after the cruise.

    This is a substantial part of our business, especially with ships like Royal Clipper, Windstar, Seabourne and other smaller ships.

    However, what the Minister often refers to as home porting are passengers arriving by chartered planes and being bussed to and from the port.
    Clearly, there is little or no financial benefit to Barbados for this kind of business other than some rum, fruit juices, milk etc., if we are lucky.

  9. No comment

    What I find amazing about these circumstances is that the BTA the BTI and the government will add the passengers who fly into barbados and then get on a coach and drive straight to their ship which will then leave as cruise ship passengers. They forget to tell everyone that these passengrs will not spend a cent in this country will not do a local tour and so how can they be counted as a cruise ship passenger.

    A cruise ship passenger is someone who arrives on a cruise ship spends a day in the country spending money on local tours and at local establishments not someone who drives through the country to get on a ship which leaves immediately. Look at it this way if you fly to LA and stopover in Miami do miami count you as a tourist spending money in miami no. And yet the cruise ship figures will show these types of passengers as cruise ship passengers what lies.