PHOTO: A local taxi operator interacts with cruise ship passengers at Port Zante during the inaugural call of the world’s largest ship Harmony of the Seas in May 2017 (Spokesman Snap)

By: Spokesman Newsroom

BASSETERRE, St.Kitts– Minister of Tourism Lindsay Grant has revealed that the damage done to the Caribbean due to the passage of hurricanes Irma and Maria poses a threat to the 2017-2018 cruise ship industry relative to the Federation of St.Kitts and Nevis.

Speaking at a website launch and tourism update event hosted by the St.Kitts Tourism Authority on Thursday 28th September at the St. Kitts Marriott Hotel in Frigate Bay, he informed that is he scheduled to attend an overseas meeting with cruise partners come next week so as to address the matter.

“…Persons see the cruise industry as a growing industry… something that’s lively but we have to appreciate the context that we are here today in that if we had to look at our season coming 2017-2018, we were expecting a bumper season (of) 1.2 million passengers; never seen in the likes of St.Kitts-Nevis…” he highlighted.

He talked about the challenges being faced “because the market ports in the eastern Caribbean are no more- St. Maarten, BVI St. Thomas, Puerto Rico which home ports hold most of our ships coming here (are) none existent and cruise lines are not coming to see just to St.Kitts-Nevis alone …and that’s the challenge we have and that is the challenge we are dealing with on a daily basis as we speak.”

Grant added: “And next week we are going overseas to engage our cruise partners to see how we can engage; not to assure them that St.Kitts is open for business but see how we can encourage them to still it make to St.Kitts and try to find one of the ports within the eastern Caribbean that can accommodate.”

The Tourism Minister also touched on the importance of having a fruitful meeting.
“If we do not that or fail or are unable to engage them in that regard, we are in for a (challenging) 2017-2018 and that is the reality of where we see it and so it even makes it more important for us in this room to in the markets of stay overs to strategise, to analyse and to come up with new ways of ensuring that this year is not only better than last year but way better than last year because we have the added difficulty and the challenge within the market place internationally (that) the Caribbean…is closed because we are grouped with all the others as one Caribbean and so we have to spread message that the Caribbean is not closed. St.Kitts and Nevis is still open for business.”

In expressing thankfulness that the Federation was spared major hurricane damages, he said: “We were, by the Almighty God, spared of the ravages of what we’ve seen and so we have to be grateful and thankful for that. While we are grateful for that, we obviously understand that we are going to be challenged in the next 12 months because their demise is not our fortune because their demise is also our demise because we are one Caribbean and so I’d like you to think of them in their plight and do whatever we can do…”

In speaking to members of the media following the event, Grant touched on the plan of action for next week’s overseas meeting.

“As we speak, we have been in contact with the itinerary planners on a daily basis. We fly up to Miami next week to speak to the cruise lines. I have actually spoken with the Prime Minister of St. Lucia Allen Chastanet and the Minister of Tourism in Antigua and Barbuda to see how we can collaborate to make up for the lost ports in the eastern Caribbean because as you would appreciate the cruise lines are not coming to St.Kitts alone not matter how good our product is; they need other destinations to which to visit along with St.Kitts and so with the absence of Puerto Rico, St. Thomas, the BVI and St. Maarten, we have a real (gap) which we have to fill.”

He continued: “So hopefully next week when we meet in Miami with the Prime Minister of St. Lucia and the Ministry of Tourism in Antigua , we can effectively and collectively engage the cruise lines to consider (or) reconsider; whatever it is , we can to put St.Kitts-Nevis and the rest of the eastern Caribbean in a better position as you would also appreciate the western Caribbean would obviously benefit to some extent from our loses and so we are just trying to balance out the situations to ensure that the economic impact is lessen.”

According to Grant “It’s a touchy situation. We are going to lose some ships so we are trying to do as much as possible to pull back some.”