Thursday, 30 August 2012 02:30
By caribarena news
Antigua St. John's - Heritage Quay merchants and other players who benefit directly from the cruise tourism sector say the sharp decline in visiting passengers this winter season will have a "devastating effect" on their operations.
"It is going to affect everybody's bottom line across the board. It is an extremely worrying situation, one that we are all very anxious about," said President of the Heritage Quay Merchants Association Elizabeth Minors.
Her comment came a day after president of the Cruise Tourism Association Nathan Dundas said the upcoming season would see a 23 per cent passenger decline as more ships headquartered in the US reduce calls to the country.
The association that Minors leads represents between 30-40 merchants operating in the duty-free area in downtown St. John's.
"We all recognise that this area generates a great deal of employment and obviously there is the economic benefit to Antigua as a result and with this drop in passenger arrivals it is likely, unless something is done, to affect staff in the summer particularly," she said.
"We are doing all we can to upgrade the Quay and upgrade the customer relations and the staff so that we give the best possible service. However, once the actual arrivals of the cruise ships are not there, that's as much as we can do."
Secretary of the St John's Taxi Association Patrick Burnette said the projected decline would hurt the group's 150 members who have already been hard-hit by the slow summer period.
"It's definitely a double whammy for a lot of taxi drivers. We were looking forward to the upcoming season and this would be hard.
With the decline, it simply means that the amount of people taking tourists on tours, going on beach trips would be far less," he said.
The bulk of business done by the country's 10 main tour operators is through cruise lines.
Head of that association Patrick Ryan said this situation would have serious consequences for them, much like the other groups.
"It's going to affect us and affect us badly. It's going to be a tough season. I think we all have to work together to turn it around here," he said.
"We have two ships a month right now and that is really hurting us. Business has been down since 2009 when there was a big drop from 2008; 2010 was another big drop; 2011 also was down, and this year it dropped even further."
The president of the Tour Operators Association has suggested several measures to renew interest in this destination including clamping down on harassment of passengers, provide new development in the quay, a review of incentives offered to cruise ships, and that the harbour be dredged to accommodate larger ships.
"The mega ships are coming out but they can't come to Antigua because our turning basin needs to be widened," he said.
Concerns about the depth of the harbour were discussed at a meeting held earlier this month with the general membership of the Cruise Tourism Association and other interest groups.
Association president Nathan Dundas said talks have since taken place with the minister and director of public works.
He has since been informed that approval has been given for some work to be done though it is not clear when this would begin.
Referencing concerns about harassment of visitors, Dundas said this can be better policed.
He also recommended that law enforcement increase patrols on beaches and in other areas.
"Again, I am requesting that the police look seriously at implementing the Tourism Police that I've been asking for police dressed in soft clothing and interacting with the guests with a visible police sign. This would add to safety and the perception of security of the passengers," the association president added.