Tuesday, 03 April 2012 02:30
By Everton Barnes
Antigua St John's - One of the main sectors of Antigua & Barbuda’s tourism industry cruise tourism is heading for lean times.
President of the Antigua and Barbuda Cruise Tourism Association Nathan Dundas is alerting the nation that this critical sector is facing reduced calls for the upcoming summer season May to October as well for the 2012-13 winter season.
Dundas, in a Caribarena.com exclusive, gave the assessment after his return from the Seatrade annual convention in Miami, Florida, and as the 2011-12 winter cruise season is entering its final weeks. The season ends on April 30.
The ABCTA president urged stakeholders to brace themselves for tough times as only two calls per month one each by the Carnival Valor and the Carnival Freedom - are scheduled for the summer, while in the upcoming winter season, there will be 38 less calls than in the 2011-12 season.
He laid the blame primary on a decision by the cruise lines to re-position their vessels to other parts of the globe such as southeast Asia, Africa, and South America. Dundas said the cruise industry has now gone global, with new and emerging markets challenging the Caribbean’s traditional hold on this segment of tourism.
“The cruise industry has virtually reshaped tourism across the world, and once never-thought-of countries with little or no interest in cruise tourism have not only embraced it, but are now pumping millions of dollars into this market," he said. "I speak of entire regions like Asia to include the China, India, South Korea, Thailand, South Pacific nations, Africa, South America... and the list goes on."
Dundas added that Europe, and parts of the Mediterranean and the Canary Islands, are not only competing with the Caribbean in the summer season, but they are taking away even the winter ships that once called in regional ports.
The cruise official explained that the cruise lines have been downgrading the Caribbean to a summer-only destination as they re-position their vessels elsewhere. The trend has been pointing downward for the last several years throughout the Eastern Caribbean.
For the summer, St Kitts-Nevis will get one call per month; Antigua and Barbuda two, St Lucia and Barbados four each, and none for the rest of the sub-region.
But it is the upcoming winter season that is of particular concern for the cruise official.
“The fact is that the bookings are indicating that we will be down from 302 calls to approximately 264 calls. This is a difference of 38 calls. That’s a lot of calls," he said.
This translates to losing millions of dollars in revenue.
"The total cruise passenger count will decrease to about 450,000 for the 2012/13 season - from 600,000 for the present 2011/12 winter season,” Dundas said. “For Antigua & Barbuda, the dredging or adjustment of our port then becomes important if we are to compete successfully, because if we cannot accommodate the larger vessels that the cruise lines are building, then we will continue to see loss of business."
He added, "Our port was built to accommodate a certain size of vessel, and the dimensions of the cruise ships, especially the US cruise lines, are now larger and subsequently have outgrown our ports.
The message then to our stakeholders here in Antigua & Barbuda, the many businesses and individual entrepreneurs that depend on the Cruise business, is that the summer is going to be very slow. Save the few dollars that you are making now between the end of the season at the end of April."