by Neville Clarke
Barbados is getting an ultra-modern, multi-million dollar cruise ship terminal,
Work on the $300 million Sugar Point Cruise facilities is scheduled to begin around the end of the year, said Minister of International Business and International Transport, George Hutson, today at Hilton Barbados Hotel.
It was disclosed that the project would be funded by SMI Infrastructural Solutions Inc., and Royal Caribbean Cruise Ltd and will separate cargo vessel operations those of from cruise liners.
Hutson pointed that project would be developed in two stages, with phase one involving the reclamation of 15 acres of waterfront land along Princess Alice Highway, the installation of underground electrical cable and water mains, construction of two cruise piers, arrival and departure facilities and the start of build out of shops and parking.
The St. James Central MP disclosed that on the 15 acres of reclaimed land, 100,000 square feet would be provided for commercial activity.
Commenting on the many complaints made on radio call in programmes that non-Barbadians were taking over the local economy, Hutson called on them to take up the many economic opportunities that will be opened with the construction of the new facilities.
Hutson argued that if Barbados were to continue to effectively compete with new and emerging destinations it would need to improve visitor satisfaction and experience. He said that initially the project should provide employment for 200 Barbadians and could rise to 500 persons during the build out of shops.
Hutson said that when completed, Barbadians, cruise passengers and land based visitors would have significant opportunities to visit the enhanced Bridgetown; experience the local craft and cuisine; listen to live local and international performers; observe local artisans prepare their creations for sale; experience activities that tell the story of Barbados and its rum heritage as well as provide a catalyst for the regeneration of economic activities in the City.
The Minister of International Transport noted that the project would bring Bridgetown to cruise ship passengers, adding that the development of the new facilities would assist Barbados in becoming a hub for cruise tourism.
Giving a background to the growth of cruise tourism, Hutson pointed out that the 1980s saw the arrival of the first cruise ships to Barbados. He pointed out that over the past 20 years cruise tourism in Barbados has grown from 127,262 passengers in 1985, to 726,543 in 2011 with a high of 812,863 in 2004.
He said that globally over the past 30 years the cruise industry had become the fastest growing category of the leisure travel market. The MP disclosed that an average annual growth rate of 7.2 per cent had been recorded with this growth led by the North American market.
He, however, pointed out that in recent years the European market has recorded growth in excess of 10.8 per cent. Hutson noted that while the industry formerly catered to older passengers, today’s generation of cruise ships feature on-board attractions to younger passengers such as surf pools, golf simulators, water parks, ice skating rinks and rock climbing walls.