Minister of Maritime Affairs and the Blue Economy, Kirk Humphrey, speaking at the ceremony to welcome the Celebrity Millennium on Monday. (B. Hinds/BGIS)

The safety of visitors, staff of the Port of Bridgetown and residents across Barbados remains a number one priority as Barbados welcomed its first cruise visitors for the year, on Tuesday.

Minister of Maritime Affairs and the Blue Economy, Kirk Humphrey, gave this assurance as he addressed a ceremony to welcome the Celebrity Millennium, the first cruise ship to call on Barbados in the last 15 months. The ship brought just over 600 fully vaccinated visitors to the island.

He said tourism officials and staff at the Port of Bridgetown spent the last few months “fine tuning protocols” to ensure they were prepared for the return of cruise passengers to the island.

“We wanted to open safely; we want to open inclusively and allow all to prosper from this particular trip and all the trips to follow. The Bridgetown Port has not been asleep. You are working to fine tune operations to make sure the infrastructure is sound; you are looking at the thermal scanners to make sure people are safe. At the end of the day for us, safety is our number one priority.  We have to be able to do it safely,” Mr. Humphrey stated.

He noted that in the coming weeks, the Seabourn Odyssey was expected to homeport in Barbados, while the Crystal Symphony was expected to call on the island during the summer months.

In addition, Mr. Humphrey disclosed that the winter period was looking “extremely positive” and noted that he was pleased with what was expected.

The Minister stressed that a lot depended on Barbados being able to reopen its tourism sector safely.

He outlined that Barbados had already lost a significant amount of its revenue as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, with losses at the Port being recorded at 22 per cent of the annual revenue for last year.

Minister of Maritime Affairs and the Blue Economy, Kirk Humphrey, receives a plaque from Vice President of Hotel Operations, Celebrity Cruises, Brain Abel, during the welcome ceremony for Celebrity Millennium on Monday. (B. Hinds/BGIS)

The Port welcomed 900,000 passengers in 2019 with about 422 calls. This compares to one call for this year with the vessel carrying just over 600 passengers.

Mr. Humphrey further lamented that there were those who lost as much as 80 to 100 per cent of their revenue from taxi to jet ski operators, among others.

“I want to make sure that we do this safely, and that as we go forward, we do not just bounce back, but we have to bounce forward and to create a much more inclusive model, and allow the same persons… [such as] the taxi operators to be able to benefit from this new norm,” he said, making reference to the new concept of “safe bubble tours”.

The Minister also gave the assurance that efforts would be made to ensure that Barbados was fun, and that there was access to the island’s usual hospitable greeting, fun tours and that those visiting would have an enjoyable time.

He added that the second commitment for the island was to its protocols, which he stressed were going to be taken “very, very seriously”.

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