by Kevon Browne
St. Kitts and Nevis (WINN): Cruise Tourism is on its way up for the 2021-2022 winter season.
Minister of Tourism Lindsay Grant announced the increase in calls to Port Zante during a press conference on October 27, with 78 calls in November and December and a tentative 60 calls for the first quarter of 2022.
The announcement is welcome news for tourism-dependent businesses and entrepreneurs considering the halt of cruise tourism for some 15-16 months because of the pandemic.
The Chamber of Industry and Commerce in St Kitts and Nevis also welcomed the news and the possibility of an injection of profit into the economy.
However, Giselle Matthews, President of the Chamber, raised concerns about the bubble tours and the inclusion of stayover passengers in travel approved tours.
“We have to find the balance between managing multiple ships in port as we open up and still creating a fair balance between our stayover passengers experience of the destination, making it as fulfilling as it is for the cruise sector, in the sense that if you’re closed off in bubble tours, and you don’t have accessibility and you’re staying in one of the hotels, and you have a busy cruise day or days… the guests who are staying in the hotels who flew in today Wednesday and only have a week or five days… They cannot go on those travel approved tours on those days that they’re at that hotel… And the experience of coming to a small island in the Caribbean is to see the island, is to meet the people is to interact. Most people who choose the Caribbean because they like the people and they want to see more. They want to learn more. They want to get out there, and we want them. Let’s face it; we need the US foreign currency. How do we manage that? What is the plan going forward to protect those guests in the hotels to give them an equally fulfilling experience of our destination and [allow] all the vendors the taxis and everyone to benefit from the value per head spend that they bring to our destination”
Raquel Brown, CEO of the St. Kitts Tourism Authority, answered that the inclusion of stayovers depends on vaccination, considering the increased risk mixed tours could present.
“I think the vaccination rate; this is something that will be approved by the task force. But I do believe that time is coming. Coming down with the 24-hour quarantine and tours… because they’re fully vaccinated, and the cruise operators are fully vaccinated. Cruise passengers are fully vaccinated, so they’re going from my vaccinated site to another vaccinated site. I think the one question though we do have which is not on the cruise side; is on the hotel side where there is more risk of picking up COVID from asymptomatic carriers because not all hotels still have fully vaccinated staff. Whereas in travel approved tours, they are bubble vaccinated. So the risk is of having a stayover visitor interact with cruise passengers and [them] going back to the cruise ship. That is where that concern is, it doesn’t mean that it can’t be [done] but if we want to look at the highest risk, the highest risk now is really with stayover it’s actually not with cruise because of the testing being done frequently, the contact tracing and all of what has been put in [place] to make the cruise a success to date for the cruise industry globally.”