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Cudjoe says expect bumper cruise season in 2018
Renewed efforts by the Ministry of Tourism to showcase T&T as an ideal travel destination is already reaping success as the 2017/2018 cruise season promises to be a bumper one with 71 calls scheduled to put into port.
Officially declaring the season open yesterday as she welcomed the early-morning arrival of 3,756 passengers aboard the Caribbean Princess in Port-of-Spain, Tourism Minister Shamfa Cudjoe said despite the recent destruction wrought by Hurricanes Irma and Maria, all was not lost.
She declared, "Cruise tourism is still alive and kicking in the Caribbean, all is not lost and we are open for business."
Cudjoe added, "Not just a handful of islands in the Caribbean, but 70 per cent of our territories are still open for business."
With rebuilding efforts underway in islands such as Dominica, Turks and Caicos, Montserrat, and St. Kitts and Nevis, Cudjoe reinforced that tourism was the backbone of many Caribbean nations as she quoted recent sentiments by chairman of the Caribbean Tourism Organisation, Hugh Riley who said, "If you want to help the Caribbean, you should travel to the Caribbean."
Cudjoe described the cruise industry as the fastest growing segment of worldwide leisure travel, having experienced an average passenger growth rate of seven per cent per annum since 1980.
She said for the period January to June 2017, Caribbean cruise arrivals stood at 15.3 million, which was a four per cent increase for the corresponding period in 2016.
Admitting the recent natural disasters had, "Put a damper on this year's cruise season," Cudjoe said it had also managed to bring the region closer as governments and people worked together to rebuild and promote the viability of the Caribbean brand.
She said T&T had originally been scheduled to receive 47 calls - 23 in Trinidad and 24 in Tobago - but negotiations by local shipping stakeholders had resulted in an additional 24 calls being added to the books, with 23 in Tobago and one in Trinidad.
The 71 calls from vessels operating Seabourne Cruise Lines, Carnival UK, TUI Cruises, Fred Olsen Cruises, Thomson Cruises and Princess Cruises among others, is expected to generate passenger arrivals of approximately 60,958 in Trinidad and 75,451 in Tobago.
Providing a taste of T&T's local culture and culinary delights for visitors yesterday, Cudjoe promised, "We want to wow our guests from the moment they arrive so that they return again and again."
Passengers were able to sample treats from The Lopinot Chocolate Co, doubles and coconut water as they danced to the steelpan music of the Caribbean Airlines Invaders.
Cudjoe expressed delight after speaking with one of the visitors who said it was his 85th cruise to the Caribbean and 39th to T&T, but the welcome, "Had been the best he ever received."
The minister said over 20 visitor guides were trained and would be strategically stationed around the capital as vessels put into port over the next few weeks.
She said efforts were also being made to secure translators as persons from as far away as Germany and Italy were expected.
...Efforts afoot to restore T&T’s glory days
Commenting on the opening of the 2018 cruise season, chief executive officer of Carvalho’s Agencies, Charles Carvalho noted that steps were underway to bring back the allure of T&T as a cruise destination of choice in the region.
He said, “We are trying to make T&T what it was years ago.”
Carvalho added that in the 1970’s, Trinidad was the “mecca” of cruise shipping in the Caribbean.
He said: “People did not even know Barbados, St. Lucia and Grenada, they had known Trinidad.”
“Trinidad was a home port destination for ships going to South America but that has gone because other destinations developed faster than we could but we are trying to bring that back.”
Carvalho pointed out that they had redoubled efforts in recent weeks to encourage ships looking for ports of calls to come to T&T, following the hurricanes.
He said, “We went to them and said T&T has the space and we had some negotiation to make it happen, but many of them are on-board now.”
Captain of Caribbean Princess Marco Fortezze, who will celebrate his 55th birthday next month, agreed T&T had “something special” to offer to visitors.
Originating from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, the Caribbean Princess departed Trinidad at 5 pm yesterday, headed for Curacao.