Cruise tourism remains a major contributor to Caribbean tourism despite the industry has suffered a serious financial crush and a few hard hits to its reputation in recent years.
Saint Lucia’s reputation as one of the major Caribbean cruise destination is slowly dwindling, but the new government has given its commitment to turn this around.
Tourism Minister Dominic Fedee said the cruise industry is very worried about the product that Saint Lucia continues to offer, and this was raised by the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association (FCCA).
Fedee said that the FCCA has complained that Saint Lucia has lost its competitiveness and vibrancy within the cruise industry, and the standard of the product has seen a decline.
The minister said when he looked at cruise statistics several years ago, Saint Kitts, pale in comparison to what Saint Lucia is today, now St.Kitts has a lead over Saint Lucia of hundreds of thousands of visitors.
ST.Kitts drew a record $1million cruise passengers this past season for the first time in history.
According to him, this shows how baldy Saint Lucia has done in this regard.
“I believe it has been a lack of real strategy and a clear understanding of which industry has taken the lead as it relates to the development and growth of the cruise sector and therefore we have seen a significant decline of 16. 2 percent,” Fedee said at a press conference on Thursday.
The new minister said that heavy focus will have to be placed on the cruise tourism sector and other fringe areas to get an overall increase in tourism on the island.
Fedee said when he looked at the last estimates of expenditure, it shows that the recurrent expenditure is over 100 million and the overall deficit even more frightening.
“The industry needs to grow by 10 percent in the next 7-8 years to get out of the crisis. Times are tough but we need to summon a new spirt of working together,” he asserted.
The government, he said, will work more closely with the local private sector to advance tourism on the island and also promised to take a closer look at the incentive regime.
“Tourism has to be the driving force to recover our economic crunch that we face currently. It is no news to you, our GDP figures have not been impressive over the past five years,” he added.
The ruling United Workers Party (UWP) had promised to build a new cruise ship terminal in Vieux Fort to complement the existing Castries Harbour.
Prime Minister Allen Chastanet had said that the new port in Vieux Fort, will be built to accommodate what is referred to as “genesis class” type cruise ships, which has accommodation for over 6,500 people.
‘We don’t have the physical capacity to take that at the Castries Harbour. So, the idea will be to build a berth in Vieux Fort to be able to handle the genesis cruise ships,” he explained.
Chastanet is of the view that the port in Vieux Fort will top the port facility in neighboring Barbados. “We would look to build a facility there to attract those home port ships to come to Saint Lucia,” he added.
The global cruise industry contributes a total of US$2 billion each year to the Caribbean, according to US-based Business Research and Economic Advisors (BREA).