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T&T joins neighbours in cruise ship plan
T&T is among four countries in the region now closer to agreeing a deal that will boast cruise ship travel to their destinations. Grenada, St Vincent and the Grenadines and St Lucia are the Caricom member states partnering with this country on the Southern Caribbean Cruise Initiative aimed at boasting passenger arrivals and revenue. The plan could take effect as early as 2015.
T&T will serve as the home port for the project based of its capacity in the areas of fuel bunkering, light manufacturing and room stock to meet the needs of potential cruise passengers. Through this partnership the regional quartet will engage the interest of major cruise lines seeking warm water destinations, proposing that a line between these territories form a new route.
At a meeting in Port-of-Spain chaired by Lorne Theophilus, St Lucia’s Minister of Tourism, Heritage and The Creative Industries, details of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the respective governments were hammered out
T&T was represented by Tourism Minister Chandresh Sharma and Tracey Davidson-Celestine, secretary for Tourism and Transportation spoke in the Tobago House of Assembly (THA). Theophilus said: “We realised there was quite a unique consensus amongst us as to the way forward. We clarified various concerns we may have had concerning the ingredients of the MOU to go to the Cabinets of the various participating territories and moving from this, we will look at the other issues.
“We will have various sub-committees who will comprise the various port authorities and other partner agencies which will look into the various aspects of a project document which is going to come subsequently, which will point to the way forward, in terms of the various developments that we need to have at the government and local level so as to make this initiative work.”
He added: “We have similarity of purpose and that is what is more important. We have the desire to move this forward. What we realised is this—we can as a collective have a stronger bargaining force within the world market.
We believe that we as a collective can better enable our countries to benefit as a product, a product which comprises more than one territory, where we can create an itinerary which is going to beneficial to us and enables us to move beyond what is the traditional seven day window which is associated with cruise tourism and develop a project which is beneficial to us, continuously.”
Theophilis credited former tourism minister Stephen Cadiz for coming up with the idea at a Caribbean Tourism Organisation Conference in New York. He praised current Tourism Minister Chandresh Sharma for keeping the project alive, saying the minister’s enthusiasm was a key driver in the project=’s success so far as he was keen on implementation of the various aspects, ensuring there are no bars toimplementation.
“I’m very happy that there is this continuity of heart, desire and intent on the part of the Ministry of Tourism even though there has been a change at the helm. So we are very comfortable, very happy and pleased to support him in whatever initiatives that he wishes to embark on for the benefit of the people of the Republic of T&T and the region in general,” Theophilus said.
“It is an idea that we believe is probably long overdue, long overdue from the perspective that the islands that are part of this discussion are islands that have always been affected adversely by what pertains to the normal practice where cruise tourism is concerned. So it is almost a no-brainer for us to come together, collaborate for the sake of doing things which are beneficial to us all.”
He said the latest survey on tourists arrivals in St Lucia showed an average visitor expenditure of around US$80-85 from a total of 700,060 visitors annually. Theophilus said it was easy to connect the considerable returns in terms of direct expenditure from port charges and aspects that were immeasurable. “We are targeting to have this fully operational by 2015, hoping to do a presentation during the course of 2014 to the industry partners who we intend to target...so that this whole initiative can be fully operational by 2015,” he said.
Sharma said the Caribbean has become one of the preferred destinations for cruises lines in recent times and the collective effort was especially designed to maximise on that. He said the MOU was arrived at with definitive operational guidelines.
“What is instructive is that we all work together and we have a clear understanding. There will be large areas of consideration. It’s a new field for us where we go collectively. In the past, the cruise lines would come and choose the destinations. We are making ourselves attractive and we are making ourselves user friendly and as a result the ground work has been done,” Sharma said.
David-Celestine said: “ With regards to the cruise ships we have several objectives that we are trying to achieve. One of them is visitorship by 50,000 passengers. “Currently for the 2013-2014 period we are at about 80,000 This, of course, added to this objective which is to drive an increase in the numbers will significantly add a certain percentage to what we currently envisage.
“For us in Tobago, it’s a very good thing because our mandate is to ensure that we develop the cruise industry as much as possible and we will be working with the minister and his team and all the respective governments who are part of this initiative to promote it as much as possible,” she said.
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