Minister of Tourism Richard Sealy says he is pleased with the level of interest and confidence shown by major cruise line companies, such as the AIDA group out of Germany and British line P&O in home porting here during part of their annual calendar.
Speaking to Barbados TODAY shortly after yesterday’s inaugural call of the AIDAbella, a 60,000-tonne cruise ship with a capacity of 2,500 passengers and close to 650 crew, he noted that there were a number of benefits that Barbados would see from such initiatives.
“It is one thing when you are just a stop on an itinerary [but] home porting allows for a greater economic impact,” the Minister of Tourism said.
“For one thing the passengers are here for longer periods and that means that there is a greater opportunity for them to spend. Beyond that, there is tremendous opportunity for cruise and stay programmes where they can combine the cruise with a land-based element of the vacation.
“That way hoteliers can get a few bed nights and so everyone benefits. Then there is the provisioning element as well where a number of farmers and other service providers and manufacturers can benefit from what is on offer. Truthfully, in that department there is still room for growth and there are opportunities that we would like to see our manufacturers and producers take advantage of,” the minister said.
Sealy suggested that Government had taken a bold, and correct decision to invest in the construction of a new purpose-built cruise facility.
He said the move was further vindicated by the developments in the sector.
“If we are talking about diversifying our base, and going into Germany and getting the Minecraft vessels and AIDA vessels, it will be critical to put the entire cruise sector on a sounder footing and not simply relying overly on the business from one particular source,” Sealy said, adding that “a lot of work is going on to accommodate these large vessels for now and beyond, like in the case of P&O’s Britannia”.
“The average Barbadian probably does not understand what happens [in this sector]. Landing eight or nine wide bodied aircraft, getting 3,000 plus passengers moved from Grantley Adams and their luggage and another 3,000 moved in the other direction . . . . It is a tremendous production that is required because when an aircraft is on the ground it starts to lose money,” the minister explained.
He would however like to see more attention paid to conversion programmes aimed at changing the average cruise passengers into stayover tourists.
“Vessels that promote this whole active club cruise concept, targeting young people, getting them to convert would make sense in terms of enticing them to consider not only a stop over.
“There is nothing wrong with that; you can get a little snapshot by visiting and in time come to appreciate the destination.
“But we have to take it seriously because Barbados is known as a destination which relies heavily on repeat business. Forty seven per cent of all tourists coming to the island would have been here at least once before. There are people who are coming here 35, 40 and even 60 times,” Sealy noted, while adding that cruise passengers could come to consider the location as a home away from their home.