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CRUISE CONTROL - VARIABLE SPEED AHEAD

Local News 09 Feb, 2022 Follow News

CRUISE CONTROL - VARIABLE SPEED AHEAD

Getting tourism back on track remains a priority for Caribbean destinations which rely on the industry for most, or at least a considerable portion, of their national income.

While no common policy exists, many countries in the Caribbean are however generally sailing back into cruise tourism - some more aggressively than others.

The contrast between numerous cruise ships docked at selected ports and others bypassing destinations that pre-COVID would have been definite ports of call could not be more stark.

But while some stare wistfully at the passing floating hotel and lament what they see as economic possibilities going amiss, others have a different view; lamenting what they still regard as a public health risk.

The push to reopen tourism-dependent economies is being driven to varying degrees by economic demand, destination popularity and an ever-present underlying competition among the islands.

Despite umbrella membership of the Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO) and the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA), the unique pull-factor of individual islands and the varying dependence on cruise and stay-over tourism has meant that different islands have taken varying paths on the road to reopening.

Specific national policies and protocols especially with the pressure to recover from the devastating economic and public health impact of the COVID-19 pandemic have been the key considerations.

Already in some destinations, a managed-risk approach has seen multiple cruise ships in their ports while others, including the Cayman Islands, have been more cautious; delaying the reactivation of cruise travel until mutually acceptable protocols are agreed upon between the destination and the cruise companies.

Hosting a top-level delegation from the important Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association (FCCA) which represents the cruise industry, Cayman’s Hon. Minister for Tourism Kenneth Bryan remarked:

“We have used every single opportunity to talk and discuss the most important and pressing issues concerning our cruise tourism sector. At the very top of the list are health and safety protocols, because right now due to the pandemic we have no cruise industry at all, and that's a sad day for our country. So, our immediate priority has been to discuss a way forward that will allow cruise ships to return while keeping our communities safe.”

Speaking for the FCCA, the organisation longstanding president Michelle Paige, put returning to Cayman as a key objective for the cruise industry.

“The cruise industry is looking forward to renewing one of the best relationships that we've ever had in the world with the Cayman Islands,” she said.

"The Cayman Islands because of the private sector has always delivered phenomenal experience. You've always been at the highlight of every single cruise passenger’s experience. So it is only fitting that the work that's being put into place to make sure that we're going to elevate the product and elevate the expenditures that the passengers and the crew spend in the Cayman Islands that this is going to be a very rewarding time.”

It is not yet known if any new formal agreement has yet been finalised on the relationship between Cayman and the cruise industry going forward.

The cruise industry has suffered a debilitating blow from the COVID-19 pandemic from both a public health and an economic standpoint with massive outbreaks of the disease on many ships forcing the entire cruise industry to be metaphorically berthed for the past two years.

Recent efforts to relaunch the industry have also witnessed outbreaks of the current Omicron variant aboard several ships venturing back into cruising.

The US Centres for Disease Control (CDC) which oversees America’s national health policy, which earlier this year increased the risk level for cruise ship travel to its highest level, still maintains a degree of caution.

Although its ‘conditional sail order’ expired mid-January, the CDC still advises on its website that cruise lines are encouraged to continue to follow all CDC public health measures, including reporting, testing, and infection prevention and control.

It said that more information about its COVID-19 Program for Cruise Ships will be released soon.


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