Barbados Free Press received this article this morning from anonymous reader “B”. We don’t know if it is an original work or if it has been published elsewhere. (We searched but couldn’t find it.) It seems to be in reply to our June 10, 2008 article Can Barbados Cope With The New Mega Cruise Ships’ 5000+ Passengers?
Nonetheless, this is a very important article written by an obviously educated and well-informed person. We encourage everyone to read the article fully as our tourism industry is vital to our country. Our thanks to BFP reader “B”…
New Mega Cruise Ships
News about the introduction of the New Mega-Cruise Ships to the Caribbean is not new. As early as 2000, delegates attending the Cruise Ship conference in Puerto Rico, including Caribbean Private and Public sectors participants, were notified by Cruise Lines officials that the new type cruise ships could be in service within 5 -10 years. Reasons given for the change suggested mega-cruise ships would be more economical to operate and that the Caribbean as a whole would benefit from the increase passenger capacity.
The subtle inference in the Cruise Lines’ message, if anyone read between the lines, was the need for Caribbean destinations to upgrade and modernize their respective cruise ship facilities to accommodate the new vessels.
Whether all of the delegates took this information seriously is doubtful but Cayman Islands, Grenada, St. Lucia and St. Maarten are moving to ensure their ports will be ready for the mega-cruise ships. Barbados on the other hand signed a three-year agreement with Carnival Cruise Lines on Oct 06/2006 (Nation News Oct 07/2006) that guaranteed the island a minimum of 400,000 cruise ship passengers annually over the contract duration plus revenues of $156 million dollars.
The need for this contract is mind-boggling when one considers the average number of cruise ship passenger arrivals for 2004 & 2005 equated to 642,429 (2004-721270 and 2005-563588). Presumably someone believed joint marketing activities would be a better investment than upgrading the Bridgetown port facilities.
The presumption Barbados will be included in the mega-cruise ships’ itinerary is somewhat speculative at this time. The mega ships will be fully equipped with supplies to cover outbound and return trips to their home bases and the only replenishments that could be required are fresh fruits, flowers and possibly water.
With the launch of the mega-cruise ships, Caribbean destinations should anticipate changes in the Cruise Lines’ modus operandi. It will not be a case of cruise passengers “becoming less interested in leaving their ships” but rather how many ports of call will the ships’ itineraries include and how much time will be spent in each location. With a captive audience of approximately 5400 + passengers, the emphasis will be on spending more time at sea and less time in ports. A seven-day cruise could entail 4 nights at sea and three days for port calls. The objective is to motivate passengers to spend money on activities and entertainment onboard ships rather than in Caribbean ports of call.
Needless to say the advent of mega-cruise ships will impact heavily not only on Barbados but the entire Caribbean’s tourism industry. Bigger is not necessarily better. Bigger means less cruise ship arrivals and the ripple effect will trickle down to port workers, tour operators, taxi drivers, duty free shops, souvenir sellers, etc to mention a few. How tourism officials react to this new developing trend will be interesting to watch.
If tourism is expected to sustain Barbados’s economy over the next two decades, destination marketing strategies and the manner in which business is conducted must be redefined. Procrastination and the tendency, as mentioned in Rowntree’s “My Barbados” book, to act as if Barbados was the centre of the universe and that tourists are lining up in numbers to spend their vacations on island, may shock tourism stakeholders when visitors go elsewhere. Tourism officials need to take note of the phenomenal growth
St. Lucia, St. Kitts, Jamaica, Cuba, the Dominican Republic and Mexico are experiencing and the stiff competition Barbados is facing in the industry.
Wanting to be classified, as a world-class destination does not happen by talking about it. Positive action is required by all concerned to achieve this status. To attract visitors, a destination has to be affordable and offer value for money. This is no longer the case in Barbados. For tourism to be a viable, productive and rewarding industry, Barbados may yet need to borrow a page from Jamaica’s Tourism Master plan and reinvent itself as a tourist destination.