Adrian Loveridge Column – Cruise Ship Industry Presents Opportunity
While pretty much all that is uttered currently regarding the future of our land based tourism sector is purely academic, until we can see some possible end to the current coronavirus crisis, one thing for absolutely certainty is that the cruise ship industry will never be quite the same again.
According to a recent media release from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) an estimated 100 cruise ships remain offshore or in controlled and restricted port berths off the United States East, West and Gulf Coasts with some 80,000 crew members on board.
The CDC states under the 100 day no sail order ‘they must comply with all government requests and may not board or disembark any crew members during this time frame’.
Onboard MS. Volendam (one of the Holland America line), from his ‘80 square foot windowless cabin’, 27 year old singer/ dancer crew member, Matthew Gordon, stated that after almost a month ‘fried fish heads had become a lunch staple’.
Regarding the several cruise ships currently moored off our Barbadian shoreline, and perhaps other jurisdictions around the world, it would appear contrary to the previous CDC ruling, the majority of the crews have been repatriated on charter flights, leaving the vessels, with skeleton staff onboard, to maintain a minimum level of safety and security.
As difficult to accept, at this time, as it may at first appear, it might just be the ideal time for a private led consortium to partner with an established cruise operator to launch a Barbados flagged and based vessel offering year- round sailing departures from Bridgetown.
Of course, I am not talking about the ‘monsters’ of the seas, like the 6,000 passenger capacity ships, but a smaller highly targeted 150-250 cabin offerings, perhaps in concert with a hotel brand.
The clearly obvious lodging brand would be Sandals, as no-one can doubt the proven ability they have acquired to source consumables for their properties, having already modelled this supply chain on the existing cruise ship operators.
Secondly, no other land based accommodation chain has been so successful in extracting unique concessions from Governments across the Caribbean and this would be enormously helpful in helping establish a regional cruise line.
As well as finally taking just a tiny chunk of the Caribbean cruise market, which has for so long dominated the global market in terms of numbers, it could help us fill seats to draw back airlines, feeding passengers into the cruise departures.
Post Coronavirus crisis, we are going to need all the support we can get to encourage airlines to return flying to Barbados and demonstrate that the routes can once again prove profitable or at least sustainable.
Going off this subject for a moment, I urge our tourism policy planners and policymakers to use this critical time to re-focus on how Barbados is presented to the world.
Both from a public and private sector, there is a great deal of work that could be done to update and upgrade national, trade association websites and social media presence.
When the possibility of returning to our shores becomes a realistic scenario, potential travellers will not want to view stale and outdated information.