One of the world’s leading travel journalists is predicting a massive surge of cruise ship traffic from as early as next month in the midst of Barbados’ tourism off-season.
In an exclusive Barbados TODAY interview, Emmy-winning investigative reporter, Peter Greenberg declared that the ‘gem of the Caribbean’ currently checks all of the boxes for American tourists clamouring for cruises after a 15-month hiatus.
The CBS travel editor is, however, warning local authorities that “rigid” enforcement of COVID-19 protocols is key to maintaining the country’s competitive advantage and avoiding a collapse of the fragile sector.
“The best thing I can say for you guys is that you have already been leading by example; you just need to continue to do that. To be responsible, to be rigid, to let everybody know that you’re caring about people, not just in terms of getting them here, but also getting them home,” said Greenberg, who is commonly known as the travel detective.
“It’s not what people are talking about, it’s what people are thinking about, and what they are thinking about is ‘I really want to go to Barbados, but I don’t want to get stuck there and not be able to get home’. They may not be telling you that, but that’s what they are thinking about.
“So if you can get cruise passengers there safely, happily and have a great experience, word of mouth will do the rest. The bottom line is that everybody is doing their homework, they’re behaving, and as long as you are able to do that, your numbers are only going to increase,” the expert added.
The distinguished tourism writer was a guest aboard the first leisure cruise to set sail in more than 15 months, which docked at the Bridgetown Port on Tuesday. Greenberg also paid Prime Minister Mia Mottley a visit at her Ilaro Court official residence before returning to the U.S.
He explained that American tourists, who traditionally favour destinations like The Bahamas, Dominican Republic, Turks and Caicos and Mexico for their close proximity to the U.S, have been forced to shift their focus because of the pandemic.
“They are looking for a place that is not going to be crowded, they are looking for a place where they can literally breathe, and at the same time, they want to be able to have experiential one-upmanship and bragging rights with their friends about going to someplace that maybe their friends haven’t gone to before. Barbados seems to check all of those boxes and at the same time, it is now accessible based on the homeporting of ships like the [Celebrity] Millennium in St Maarten that will then stop at places like Barbados as part of their tour,” Greenberg explained.
In addition to tremendous promise for the October-April ‘high season’, Greenberg revealed that market indicators are suggesting that vessels filled with tourists could come calling much sooner.
“Every airplane that I’ve been on has been full, that includes into and out of Barbados by the way, sometimes even oversold, and the cruise lines could fill them today if they wanted to. They are making the decision intentionally not to, and to increase slowly, but I wouldn’t wait until October to see that,” Greenberg advised.
“I am estimating by the end of July, you’re going to see full cruise ships in every market in the Caribbean, even if it isn’t high season because you’re dealing with pent-up demand over 15 months of repeat dedicated cruisers who can’t wait to get back on their ships,” the travel investigator added.
On the issue of safety, Greenberg explained that protocols on the cruise ships and in the various destinations have elevated the vessels from being “floating petri dishes” to “probably the safest place to be”.
The Royal Caribbean-owned vessel, which he travelled on earlier this week, carried just 648 passengers, despite its capacity of over 2100 passengers. All adults, including passengers and crew, were fully vaccinated as part of safety protocols.
The travel expert reported that all crew members are required to wear facemasks, there are hand sanitisers everywhere, washing stations in dining rooms and the trademark buffet experience has been redefined.
“No passengers are touching utensils at buffet stations, no passengers are touching food at buffet stations, and I can tell you from the experience that nobody was complaining,” Greenberg explained.
When passengers disembark, they are supposed to emerge in a “rigidly-controlled” bubble environment comprising a carefully vetted group, planned transportation and pre-approved attractions.