Tourism bosses are ramping up their efforts to save the cruise tourism product from sinking further, as cruise passengers find less to do and spend less money while ashore here.
With the island struggling to keep up with competition from such destinations as Mexico, Curacao and Aruba, officials have come up with a major plan aimed at pumping new life into that aspect of the island’s main industry.
“There are things we must do to make our product more inclusive, and to make sure that the average Barbadian sees the benefits of the finances surrounding this cruise industry,” Minister of Tourism and International Transport Kerrie Symmonds told reporters on Wednesday as he outlined plans for the industry.
The aim, he said, was to get cruise passengers to spend more time on land, encourage them to spend more money, increase the number of times they return here, and increase the number of vessels docking here.
Symmonds, who was briefing the media following a meeting with the Florida Caribbean Cruise Association (FCCA) and local industry figures at the Limegrove Lifestyle Centre in Holetown, said the newly-formed National Cruise Development Commission had submitted its first report on the industry, which is expected to go before Cabinet for review “once it is perfected”.
Initial recommendations coming out of that study are for improvements to signage, cleanliness and garbage collection, and for better use of its spaces including the Pelican Village Craft Centre.
Once Cabinet approves the document, short, medium and long-term suggestions will be put forward, said Symmonds.
He said the Government will work closely with the private sector in order to diversify the island’s product offerings, while at the same time broadening the base of participation of local entrepreneurs in the industry.
Government will “almost immediately” begin the effort by bringing life to the underutilized Trevor’s Way and Pelican Village areas, starting on Friday nights when a homeport ship calls here.
Symmonds said: “That Trevor’s Way experience in front of Pelican Village is going to begin within the next couple of weeks and I want it to be done during the winter season on a good few Fridays or Saturday nights. We have to demonstrate to people how they can earn a better living.” He added that the activities will consist of “carnival type” and culinary activities from food vendors in and around The City as well as craftspeople.
While the tourism engine continues to fire, he said, industry players agreed that it was in need of re-evaluation and improvements.
From teaching visitors how to bone flying fish the Bajan way to showing them how to roast a breadfruit, the tourism minister said it was his intention for both cruise and air passengers to have more authentic Barbadian experiences.
Work was also being done that should see the island capitalizing on its designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, he said, in a bid to solve the issue of cruise passengers turning up in The City to find closed stores.
The minister added: “So all of that is the work that the Cruise Commission has done. It is just now to get the whole community to listen, understand and hold hands in this partnership.”