Minister of Tourism Richard Sealy is mulling over a cruise proposal that could see the island raking in far more than
the estimated US$53.7 million collected annually from the sector.
Sealy said he was willing to sign “tomorrow” a memorandum of understanding that is part of a regional initiative that offers a suite of incentives to cruise lines, among them a reduction in charges levied by the Port and stevedores, but not before careful consideration.
The proposal falls under a MOU agreed to, in principle, last month by Barbados and other members of the Cruise Alliance of the Southern Caribbean.
“I’m not going to suggest that we allow ships to berth for free; we’ve still got to put fuel in the tugs and pay Port workers and so on. Having said that we are willing, recognizing how highly seasonal this particular sub-sector is, prepared to offer some incentives, some adjusted rates,” he told Barbados TODAY.
“The arrangement we have with Carnival Corporation actually spoke to that. That three- year contract is expiring in December, and the understanding is that once that happens a new contract will have incentives to help improve summer traffic.”
Sealy was firm in his view that the country must move away from the persistent “feast and famine situation” that plagues the sector yearly and is characterized by a fall-off in visitors during the summer season in contrast to the high volume recorded during winter months.
“I’m hoping that in the very near future we can hammer it [MOU] out and get technical teams working on some of the various aspects of what we want to advance. Mariners have already begun looking at it. The Port will look at it and we will see what’s possible. I’m saying we have to be creative, but we will analyze it. Clearly, if something looks in, our view, like it will generate sufficient economic activity, we will encourage it,” he said.
“I’m fully on board, most of my colleagues are fully on board. We’re trying to recruit some other players because we want to have something meaningful,” he said.
If ministers sign the MOU, states will also offer to fuel cruise ships, develop more home ports and collaborate on the issue of marketing and communications.
Chairman of the Caribbean Shipping Association Cruise Committee, Nathan Dundas, explained that the agreement sought to form a stronger alliance among regional islands, promote growth in the
sector, provide a stimulus and allow for “a stronger voice” to negotiate with cruise line executives.
“There are no binding obligations for any government to be a part of the alliance if they do not wish to do so.
Similarly, any government can, by written notification, cancel their inclusion in the alliance,” Dundas said.
“I am of the opinion that it is a good alliance for us to be a part of and can only benefit us in the cruise tourism industry. The MOU will not restrict any destination in the
performance of its national requirements and it has no authority in law.”
A steering committee, made up initially of representatives of participating destinations, is expected to set budgets that will guide the establishment of the funding
mechanism for the arrangement. That committee will likely meet in Curacao in December. Almost 1,800 people are employed in the Barbados cruise sector, according to the 2012 report
by Business Research And Economic Advisors titled Economic Contribution Of Cruise Tourism To The Destination Economies.
Just over 606,000 cruise passengers visited the island during the 2011/2012 period. [email protected]