Minister of Tourism Richard Sealy is anticipating a busy cruise season this year, on the heels of a strong performance in the industry over the past two years.
Addressing the 47th Annual General Meeting of the Caribbean Shipping Association at the Hilton Barbados Resort this morning, Sealy noted that 390 vessels berthed here in 2014, while the figure for 2015 was slightly higher, at 394.
“In 2016 we had 424 vessels … and it is anticipated that 2017 will be another busy cruise season. As of September there were 553,869 cruise passengers that visited our shores. And by the end of the year we expect that those numbers will be approximately 834,438 passengers – a record year for cruise ship arrivals to Barbados,” Sealy said.
According to him, a study on the economic impact of cruise tourism on Caribbean destinations, conducted by the Florida Caribbean Cruise Association (FCCA) revealed that the Barbados economy received approximately US $57.3 million between May 2014 and April 2015.
“This expenditure was generated by onshore spending by passengers and crew as well as monies received by cruise lines for supplies for both services and fees and taxes. The port is therefore looking actively at how we can increase that economic footprint. And we have, since that time, seen record increases in the number of vessels visiting Barbados back in that same period when the FCCA did that survey,” Sealy noted.
The minister said that information from the Caribbean Tourism Association shows that the Caribbean remains the destination of choice for cruise passengers, even in the face of recent hurricanes which caused widespread damage across the region.
“And indeed the numbers overall are increasing. Here in Barbados, we have seen close to a 16 per cent increase to date over last year, and we will also see a record year for long-stay arrivals.”
Sealy’s report came as regional tourism representatives meet in Grenada this week for the annual State of the Industry Conference (SOTIC), where they are expected to discuss steps being taken with the cruise lines to ensure that the region’s cruise sector has not been severely impacted by the disasters.
“And yes, some ports have had to be closed temporarily but they are making the adjustments. And importantly, we are all responding to those who have been affected by these most unfortunate events,” Sealy said.
He lauded the work of first responders in the shipping industry who assisted the affected areas, noting that they provided “not only vessels to take relief supplies and to evacuate people, but platforms for first aid efforts and even allowing other operations to occur from vessels and so on”.
“That was quite commendable, and should be held in high regard for responding so rapidly to those in need,” Sealy said.