As hurricane-battered Caribbean islands move to rapidly-reopen sea ports for cruise ships, Barbados is shaping up for a windfall with some of these pleasure vessels redirecting routes while the damaged islands mend.
Heralding the beginning of this diversion some 3,000 passengers were set to arrive in Port Bridgetown on Thursday aboard ‘Adventure Of The Seas’ a ship in the fleet of the Royal Caribbean cruise lines, which is ending a three-week pause in cruise activity owing to regional storm damage.
This is one of six cruise lines that storm damage to other island destinations forced to either include Barbados in their visiting itinerary, or step up the number of visits to this port that has so far escaped the effects of Tropical Storm Harvey, Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria.
The full force of all these storms passed north of this destination.
Resulting from this lucky break given by nature, Barbados officials have indicated that there will be 34 more cruise ship calls on the Bridgetown Port in 2017, adding to the 424 originally projected for this year based on the similar number received in 2016.
This has a potential significant impact on the Barbados economy as cruise visits are a vital component of the overall tourism industry on which the island depends heavily.
Speaking at the Caribbean Shipping Association’s annual conference in Barbados this week Tourism Minister Richard Sealy emphasized the importance of cruises to the island, pointing to Florida Caribbean Cruise Association figures that show cruise passengers and crew spending, port fees and purchasing of supplies boosted the Barbados economy to the tune of an estimated US$57.3 million between May 2014 to April 2015.
But the fact of this cruise visitor bonus is not to say that the Barbados tourism sector did not feel some negative impact from the passage of the destructive storms.
Officials have been complaining of suffering from a mix-up in identities that has seen a number of United States airline travel operators and vacation bookers the world over confuse Barbados as a destination with Hurricane Maria-ravaged Barbuda.
Barbados Tourism and Marketing Inc. (BTMI) CEO, William Billy Griffith, reportedly said that his department has been forced to take corrective action on the misperception because some of these travel agents and tour operators had reduced bookings to Barbados under the false impression that the island was devastated.
He was quoted saying, “we did two things, what we did is maintain our presence on social media, some advertising to some extent, and we continued promoting Barbados... So simply by extension of the fact that we have promoted events we were saying that we are in business.”
BTMI United States Director, Petra Roach, blamed general lack of knowledge of the Caribbean geographical layout for the impact on its tourism.
“We are totally empathetic with the victims of these storms and are very proud to be part of the Caribbean region ... but travel agents should recognize that we are not in the hurricane belt.
“It is business as usual for us with lots of events that agents could package.”