Cruise tourism is expected to continue to rise, well into 2011.
This is according to projections given today, by Barbados Tourism Association (BTA) member, Denis Roach during the Association’s second media briefing that was held aboard the M.V. Harbour Master.
Acknowledging that Barbados was "presently looking at?? a five percent?? increase over the same period for last year," Mr. Roach said, "A five per cent increase in some very perilous economic times [shows] the cruise industry has really been able to weather this storm extremely well and Barbados as a consequence, has benefited."
Much of the increase was attributed to the country’s ability to successfully lure ships for home-porting and Mr. Roach said this was where "a ship adopts Barbados for a period of approximately five months".
He added: "The benefits to the island are many, where the crew actually sees Barbados as their home for that period and live among us and spend money as any other Barbadian would and all imported food, beverage and supplies for those ships must transit the Bridgetown port."
It was also noted that many local companies gained from supplying the vessels with food and beverage as well as artisans who assisted when problems with equipment surfaced aboard these vessels. "We are constantly putting skilled labour on those ships, so the island benefits," Mr. Roach explained.
The BTA member stressed that cruise tourism was a major contributor to the economy and this type of visitor could spend up to $162.47, per day, on the island.
According to him, it also helps the hotel industry via advertising and increases the number of air seats available. He pointed out, "This is something that people don’t understand. When you have a boat home-porting in Barbados, it means that people fly into the island to take that boat; to do so they must get on an airline and we know from being in the hotel business that one of the most difficult components to manage is our constant supply of air seats. The home-porting of cruise ships helps us to fill those air seats and allow good load factors."
Mr. Roach also lauded the sector, noting that it had come "a long way" since the 70’s, where under 100,000 passengers was the recorded number. "We are now over 500,000 passengers and we have home-porting and the sail and stay programme," he declared.
Future projections proffered by Mr. Roach indicated continued growth would see 2010-2011 bringing in excess of 800,000 passengers.
"We might even touch 900,000… that would be a record for this island," he contended, though warning that numbers were based on information available to the BTA, but could change depending on factors that might affect the vessels’ itinerary.
And, Mr. Roach also gave insights into initiatives the BTA would pursue, including a bid to capture cruise business out of the European market and luring megaships and luxury yachts, while simultaneously providing the infrastructure by way of marinas and improvements to the Bridgetown Port.