A clearer picture is emerging of the fallout suffered by regional ports – including the Bridgetown Port – following the passage of hurricanes Irma and Maria last month.
President of the Caribbean Shipping Association and General Manager of the Bridgetown Port David Jean-Marie revealed yesterday that while the regional shipping industry had generally weathered the storms, at least two major cruise lines — Adventure of the Seas and Carnival — had repositioned their calls as a result of the recent disasters.
“We did see the diversion of a few cruise ships. For example one that comes to Barbados on Wednesdays, we lost that business for a couple of days because obviously one port, one country does not make an itinerary.
“We need our sister ports to be in good shape. But we believe that that has been sorted out now and we expect to see the Adventure of the Seas and perhaps the Carnival vessels returning in a couple of weeks to Barbados,” he told reporters on the sidelines of Monday’s opening of the CSA’s 49th annual meeting at the Hilton Barbados Resort.
His comments come on the heels of concerns raised by Chief Executive Officer of the Barbados Tourism and Marketing Inc. (BTMI) William Billy Griffith and other tourism officials that some United States-based airlines and international booking agencies were confusing Barbados with storm-battered Barbuda, and had decided not to book flights to the island because they were of the impression it was devastated.
Without giving any indication of how widespread this problem was, Griffith told Barbados TODAY at the weekend that corrective action had to be taken.
“We did two things, what we did is maintain our presence on social media, some advertising to some extent, and we continued promoting Barbados,” the tourism CEO said on the sidelines of last weekend’s Barbados Jazz Excursion at the Barbados Hilton Resort.
“So simply by extension of the fact that we have promoted events we were saying that we are in business,” he said.
However, with the cruise season due to start here in November, Jean-Marie has joined with Minister of Tourism Richard Sealy in expressing optimism that the coming season would be a bumper one.
“We’ve been seeing a few cancellations, but we’ve also been seeing a few other vessels coming in, so the effect has been neutral. And we expect, as the Minister says, to have a record year for cruisers coming to Barbados, in excess of 830, 000 passengers for 2017,” Jean-Marie said following’s Sealy’s address to the opening ceremony at which he revealed that, based on information from the Caribbean Tourism Association, the region remains the destination of choice for cruise passengers, even in the face of recent hurricanes which devastated Anguilla, Barbuda, the British Virgin Islands, Dominica, Puerto Rico and St Martin.
However, CSA General Manager Fernando Rivera reported that the affected ports were gradually getting back on their feet, with cruise liners expected to return to St Martin shortly.
“The Adventure of the Seas . . . . they are going back to St Martin . . . . One of the cruise piers was damaged, but they can work,” Rivera said.
He also suggested that Antigua might be in for a record year, “as most of the ships that go to Puerto Rico will now stop in Antigua”.
In the case of Dominica, Managing Director of Global Shipping Connections Scott Veira reported that in light of the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria on September 18, “we’ve had to divert some cargo from Dominica to Trinidad. [However], they’re hoping to get to [Dominica] in a few weeks’ time.”
Meanwhile, the CSA has pledged assistance to the storm-ravaged countries.
“We held our general council meeting [on Sunday] and during the deliberations we agreed that the CSA should commence a disaster relief fund from which monthly donations will be made to affected nations,” Jean-Marie revealed during Monday’s opening ceremony, adding that the association was “fully committed to making its resources available to ensure a complete and speedy recovery from these disasters”.