This year’s cruise season is expected to rake in $56 million, Tourism Minister Randall Mitchell told the Business Guardian on Tuesday.
“In the first full cruise season since the pandemic, November 2022 to April 2023 we received 68 cruise calls across Port-of-Spain, Scarborough and Charlotteville.
“Those 68 cruise calls brought 96,000 passengers with a disembarkation rate of 80 per cent or four in every five passengers. Our surveys revealed that each disembarking passenger spent US$50 on average, therefore, approximately US$4 million or TT$25 million was spent spent in the economy over this season,” Mitchell said.
He noted that with this cruise season, from November 2023 to April 2024, there is an anticipated to be a 51 per cent increase in the number of calls across the three ports of T&T.
“We have secured 113 cruise calls and anticipate 212,000 thousand passengers and 81,000 crew members.
“Using the same disembarkation rate and average passenger spend, we should expect to receive at least US$8 million or $56 million. Of course, we will try to increase the rate of visitor spend by improving and increasing our offerings,” the minister said.
Noting that the cruise industry has always been an important subsector for this country’s tourism sector, Mitchell added that it not only brings in a considerable number of passengers per cruise call, but also provides tremendous earning opportunities for tour operators, craft and trade and other cultural workers.
On Tuesday, Tourism Trinidad cut the ribbon for the official launch of the 2023 to 2024 cruise season. The event was marked by the welcome of the Ruby Princess, the second ship of the season, from the renowned Princess Cruises line.
Mitchell also spoke about what measures he would like so see implemented to enhance this country’s cruise season.
“This cruise season, the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and the Arts and its agencies including Tourism Trinidad, National Academy for the Performing Arts (NAPA), Queens Hall, and the National Carnival Commission (NCC) will continue to collaborate with the T&T Police Service, the tourism stakeholders, and the Port-of-Spain City Corporation and similarly, the THA and its agencies and stakeholders in Tobago, to ensure we continue to provide a viable cruise tourism product for our visitors.
“Among the measures, we expect continued priority over the safety and security of our visitors, smooth operations at our cruise terminal at the port of Port-of-Spain, and this year, we have collaborated with the Port of Spain City Corporation who are hosting a visitors’ market at the Brian Lara Promenade which will boast locally made craft (one of the ways we expect to improve spend), together with live entertainment provided by the ministry,” Mitchell detailed.
Moreso, cruise agent and CEO at Carvalho’s Agencies, Charles Carvalho, recommended that the port of the Port-of-Spain needs to be widened to accommodated larger ships which are growing in popularity among passengers.
The agency is the port agent for cruise ships coming to Trinidad and Tobago.
According to Carvalho, while Trinidad can accommodate ships at the port, that capacity needs to improve especially as vessels become more modern.
“We have maxed out in terms of the size of the ships we can handle right now in Trinidad. We can handle up to a 330-metre length vessel, but today we have vessels upwards of that such as 400 metres,” he explained.
Regarding other factors to be tackled, Carvalho advised there be greater incentives for cruise liners to come to T&T, noting that Trinidad is the furthest island south in the Caribbean, which makes that distance somewhat onerous for vessels to travel.
“The distance to come here out of the United States is a challenge...The ships that come to the southern Caribbean, they would come up to Barbados or St Lucia.
“So cruise lines look for incentives to cut costs in terms of fuel burn, you can look at reducing head tax, port fees etc because every dollar saved by a cruise line is like a million dollars,” Carvalho said, as he advised that these are the issues the authorities need to look at in taking the cruise industry forward.
POS as a home port
However, Carvalho continues to be a stalwart in putting Trinidad on the international map as he wants to establish this country as a home port for cruises.
The issue of a home port was part of recent discussions at a cruise conference held in Mexico, which Carvalho took part in.
“We are looking at an 80 to 90 per cent chance that we could make Port-of-Spain a home port for Royal Caribbean’s future calls...for passengers flying into Trinidad to board the ship similar to that facility Miami and Barbados.
“We are looking at creating new itineraries and bringing the ship further south,” Carvalho said.
On how soon such a home port can established, he said the cruise lines book their itineraries two to three years in advance.
“But once they have this information, they can put things in advance. So if there is a need for it and they see that they can put you in before the two to three years regarding the itineraries and planning. There could be a possibility that things can change overnight. They may have an issue with another port or if they may want to make a change, that information can help them prepare for the future and the future could be immediate,” he explained.
He noted that Trinidad also has all the logistics in place which include airlift.
“What makes the home port feasible is the international flights that come to your destination and come at regular intervals. Some people could have good airlift into the country, we could accommodate the aircraf and we have a large airport so we would handle flights coming in and special charters and we have hotel accommodation,” Carvalho said.
This cruise season is expected to experience of ten inaugural visits and five new cruise lines, including Seabourn, Ex Polaris, Victoria Cruises, Silver Seas Cruises, and Salen Ship Management Company.
The majority of the passengers are expected to originate from the United States, followed by the UK and Canada.
For the Ruby Princess, which sailed into Port-of-Spain on Tuesday, just over 800 of the passengers went on pre-booked tours utilising 50 maxi-taxis from local tour operators, according to Tourism Trinidad.
It also noted that visiting passengers took advantage of an array of tours, allowing them to explore the culture and natural beauty of Trinidad.
Some of the tours included a city tour, Maracas beach and waterfall tour, Caroni swamp tour, Paramin tour, and a visit to the famous Angostura Rum Distillery.