Ricky Skerritt: Cruise ships leaving Caribbean for more profit. Tourists say that’s not the entire story.

UK Air Passenger Duty hitting Barbados hard

The chairman of the Caribbean Tourism Organisation just told TTG Travel Trade Gazette that the Caribbean is starting to feel the effects of cruise ships moving to European and Asian waters. Ricky Skerritt also told TTG that the Air Passenger Duty is a killer when it comes to one of Barbados’ most important markets: the Brits …

“The ships are going wherever they can get the best yield, which we understand, because the cost of flying to the Dominican Republic or Barbados is so much higher for European passengers, especially from Britain with Air Passenger Duty.

“We are constantly talking to the lines to see what we can do to stimulate demand, but it will be very difficult to bring them back overnight,”

Those ships aren’t returning to the Caribbean anytime soon

Mr. Skerritt’s attempt to put some hope and an upbeat spin on the situation is understandable, but logic tells us that the decisions made by various cruise lines to abandon the Caribbean either for the summer or permanently will not be reversed anytime soon.

The cruise lines did their homework, gathered their information and then decided upon new strategies. This didn’t happen overnight. New tours, marketing strategies and materials were probably prepared a year or more in advance. People book cruises for the destinations and also for specific ships that they know and favour – and many cruise veterans plan their trips years ahead. “Darling, let’s do Asia in the summer, then Africa the year after, then Alaska the following summer.”

Once again, logic tells us that once a ship leaves Barbados and the Caribbean on a permanent basis – it may be years before we see it or a replacement tie up a Bridgetown.

Tourists say: The cost of getting to Barbados isn’t the only problem

An old friend alerted us to this story and also to the reaction on some of the cruising blogs and discussion forums.

The reaction to Mr. Skerritt’s comments by experienced Caribbean cruise passengers from the UK is both revealing and disturbing.

Here’s what the conversation is looking like at the Cruises.co.uk discussion forum… and it’s not pretty. Have a read and think what these folks are saying, and how they are making their vacation plans…

“I can understand their concerns but I have little sympathy with them. Until fifteen years ago the Caribbean was seen as the ultimate winter destination for Europeans. The prices became vastly inflated, hotels/resorts did not reinvest their profits and standards began to slip. But almost out of the blue the other resorts developed rapidly (Maldives etc) offering Europeans great value and the Middle East offering out of this world amenities It’s a lesson which all tourist destinations should heed, don’t take the tourists for granted, someone is always willing to offer them a “better holiday experience””

… Alan, Newcastle-upon-Tyne

“I agree with Alan. The Caribbean has always been a winter destination for cruise ships and package holidays and the Med., Baltic etc the summer destination. The reason for this was to avoid the rainy season and high humidity in the Caribbean from May to October. The fact that the various Caribbean islands have become reliant on their inflated prices is unfortunate. What the Med. earns in the summer lasts the winter. Suggest the Caribbean adopt the same strategy, what they earn in the winter covers the summer. As newer destinations emerge it becomes a competing market. Suggest the Caribbean learns to compete.”

… London

“Agree entirely with the comments.However, the crime (or perception of crime) and the saturation of ports like Barbados, St Marrten and St Thomas, must also have a bearing on the problem.”

… Abergavenny

“Just come back (yesterday 26 Sept) from a Caribbean cruise with RCCL and I must say that we were disgusted with the prices charged on food and especially on drinks on the islands visited. We even commented to them that we found the prices of drinks on board ship so much more reasonable. We talked to other fellow cruisers and were told that most people these days just go on a trip or just a short walk into the ports then back on board to enjoy the ship. At the time of our visit there was only one other smaller ship in port at the same time, which is such a different picture to the one 2 years ago when we could not get into the shops for all the different ships and passengers visiting. We also remember enjoying some very reasonably price local beer.”

… Newton Abbot

Read the whole sad story at Cruises.co.uk: Caribbean Crunch: Islands Hit by Relocation of Ships

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18 Comments

Filed under Barbados, Barbados Tourism, Tourism, Travel, Traveling and Tourism

18 responses to “Ricky Skerritt: Cruise ships leaving Caribbean for more profit. Tourists say that’s not the entire story.

  1. Weston

    More depressing reading. Where is the growth to drive increased prosperity going to come from for Barbados? It’s all starting to feel like we’re at the end of an era and the future is very uncertain.

  2. rasta man

    And we are talking about spending(wasting) more millions of dollars in Port facilities .As I see it we have two ships that come here on a weekly basis ,Victory and Serenade of the Seas.

  3. watcher

    @Weston

    It would certainly appear there is a lot of uncertainty ahead. For tourists, Barbados is a very expensive destination. Why is it so expensive? Is it time to abandon the fixed exchange rate?

  4. J. Payne

    Barbados’ port terminal isn’t exactly the prettiest.


    Also are the cruise ships leaving the region, or just Barbados?
    Top 10 cruise destinations:

    http://www.travelbite.co.uk/holiday-ideas/2011/09/15/top-10-caribbean-cruise-destinations-for-2012

    Just recently Carnival Cruises announced they’d be building a massive new cruise terminal in the Dominican Republic (*with* a ‘numbers of arrivals’ guarantee to the government there.)

    Carnival Corp will build $65 million cruise port in Dominican Republic – by Cruise Maven (Sherry Laskin) on August 22, 2011 — in Cruise News
    http://www.cruisemaven.com/2011/08/22/carnival-corp-will-build-65-million-cruise-port-in-dominican-republic/

    Barbados just got eclipsed by the competition that’s all.
    I think Barbados should build a purpose built cruise terminal in Speightstown (the former deep water port and capital of Barbados.) And it can also be the stop over of the new Trinidad Ferry that will be starting up soon, so it doesn’t get stuck in traffic at the Bridgetown port.

  5. FearPlay

    Ground based hospitality pay Government taxes, land tax, employee salaries, VAT, construction costs etc. and yet get few of the perks that water based hospitality is offered. Ground based hospitality cannot get up at the drop of a feather and decide to move elsewhere like our ocean faring friends do after threatening withdrawal if more elaborate facilities aren’t built. Wait until the condo owners decide to sell and move also. Let us look after our hotel investors…. no word recently on Mr Loveridge and his hotel, what a pity.

  6. Adrian Loveridge

    FearPlay,

    I am still around. You are so right. In addition to what you say 17.5% VAT is paid on all Barbados orginating air travel.
    What VAT do you pay on a cruise?
    Almost BDS$90 is now paid in departure taxes to fly out of Barbados, what does the cruise passenger pay? BDS$12 I believe!
    Yet we are told that the Government needs these taxes for airport improvements. Don’t they also need them for Port improvements?
    Carnival Corporation is one of the most profitable travel related companies in the WORLD, but for years we have been giving them a subsidy, which used to be US$400,000 per year to attract ONE ship per week in the summer months.
    32 closed hotels and still counting……..

  7. Craze

    Typical wastage thinking? build ANOTHER PORT at Speightstown that is silly. we always tend to go developing something new with a “build it and they will come” outlook insted of IMPROVING and UPGRADING and ENHANCING and REFRESHING what we already have. What is the point of building MORE capacity that we will struggle to fill when we have all kind of run down dumpy facilities that are idling.

  8. rasta man

    @Craze :the point is money in the pockets of the politicians

  9. no one cares

    @Craze: not to mention many of these new developments like that destroy the environment and may negatively affect the communities around them. Leads to an over built tourism product that the tourist themselves say they do not like and are running from.

  10. millertheanunnaki

    @ Craze Excellent point!

    @ no one cares. Can’t the so-called tourism kingpins understand that visitors do not want concrete and artificial environments? Are they only playing lip service to the powerful eco-tourism movement?
    That is why countries like Cuba and Costa Rico, or even Belize, will get ahead of Barbados in a few years.

  11. J. Payne

    Don’t forget if the cruise ships leave Barbados that is going to decrease the air passengers to Barbados too. Namely persons using an air-to-sea transfer. Tourists hardly pay VAT. If you have a passport and a return ticket and you present in shops in Bridgetown you get to shop VAT/duty free.

  12. J. Payne

    Cruise ships have stuff to do that many hotels don’t have… Some tourists simply forgo exiting some ports completely in favour of what there is to do on the ship itself….

  13. J. Payne

    There is no easy answer. If Barbados’ neighbours keep the ships the tourists might just goto where they’ve experienced. If they do stop in Barbados they may decide to make Barbados their next destination (solely). There is no easy way. But if CARICOM countries were forward thinking they probably could have pooled their money and purchased these cruise ship companies completely and then control the sea based tourism too. (Plus they’d be able to be the main suppliers of produce on those ships etc.) China was saying at one point they wanted to establish their own cruise line in the Caribbean to tap the U.S. market. Haven’t heard anything more about it.

  14. Adrian Loveridge

    ‘Tourists hardly pay VAT’

    VAT payable on the cheapest bookable room at Sandy Lane for 14 nights in January = BDS$3,894.00. Plus they are paying 17.5% on EVERY meal, attraction, car rental, paid activity plus any shopping etc.
    If you take the non-reclaimable VAT paid by over 500,000 annual long stay visitors, there would be a big hole in the national economy.

    ‘We’ had a golden opportunity to brand a Caribbean cruise ship when European Vision was moored in Carlisle Bay for months to at least try and control our own destiny. A Caribbean flagged ship employing Caribbean people and consuming Caribbean goods.
    The cost per cabin would have been far cheaper than the cost of constructing a land based hotel room and imagine the advantage of not having to pay NIS, Income Tax, Land Taxes, VAT, Import duties, etc, etc, etc.

  15. J. Payne

    That should be some tourists. If you’re by friends or family you don’t get hit by the 7.5%. Then if you present your passport (and return ticket) at the shops along Broad Street, they’ll waive the VAT.

  16. J. Payne

    I fell the easiest way to get around the APD is to force the hand of Her Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom. Here’s one way I thought of as a way to entangle it in its own legal processes. Now, the ADP bands countries according to capital city, and therefore Hawaii with the capital city being in Washington D.C. I believe is said to be lumped in with the rest of the United States.( SOURCE: http://www.onecaribbean.org/newsandmediacenter/apdtax/default.aspx “This discriminatory system means that flights to Hawaii or California will be less heavily taxed than flights to the Caribbean destinations, even though APD is intended as a “green tax”. “)

    Now to spin this on it’s head, the de-facto capital for: Anguilla, Montserrat, Cayman Islands, the Turks and Caicos Islands, and the British Virgin Islands should technically be London, England. Reason being, this is the seat of the Foreign Commonwealth Office. Needless to say, British Overseas Territories cannot negotiate their own foreign affairs, nor are they responsible for their own national defence. Therefore, the British Overseas Territories could lobby that the APD is in-fact splitting up the United Kingdom from its territory. Those regions should be in band 1. And if the Caribbean gets that, they can send the regional flights to those airports to get past the duty since it isn’t a long haul flight from one of those British territories within the region. Problem solved.

  17. Leeds Travel

    Barbados is too expensive. The travel costs and the costs once you get there have priced the destination out of the market. Higher costs can be understood if the quality of product and value are present but that is certainly no longer the case with Barbados. Our clients are admittedly not upper scale but they seldom request or show interest in Barbados.

    “There are so many other destinations that offer a better experience for less money.” That is the problem with Barbados tourism summed up in one sentence.

  18. eer

    Every port of call for the cruise ships needs to offer good facilities and a price that is competitive. People talk and tell people of their experiences and if they think the facilities or services are not good they won’t be coming back and they will not be telling their friends.