Reader’s Letter: Rollocks talks cruise tourism

POSTED: 01/21/14 12:36 PM

Dear editor,

Permit me a little space to help enlighten those of us who don’t know. As an educator I subscribe to the philosophy that there are no stupid questions. Some of us question our cruise tourism, and wonder why some people get so excited during the tourist season. Let me once again share the following statistics with you, which I quote from credible sources in the industry. Eastern Caribbean cruise vessel arrival-winter 2013-2014: St .Maarten will receive 603 cruise ships over the winter season 2013-2014, the closest 2 competitors are Barbados with 373, and St. Lucia with 331. These figures I have shared with you before.

What is new is the total economic contribution of cruise tourism by destination

2011/2012 cruise year (21 islands in the Caribbean). The Bahamas led all destinations with $393.8 million (total cruise expenditures), followed by St. Maarten with $356.2million, the US Virgin Islands with $339.million, Puerto Rico with $186.6 million, Curacao with $39.4 million, and Aruba with $63.7 million.

When we look at the total employment, the numbers follow a similar trend:

In the Bahamas the industry employs 8,668 people, while in St. Maarten it employs 8,123 people, Aruba is 1,542, and Curacao 735. When we look at the total employee wage income the trend is about the same except St. Maarten, which has the highest figure of $159.8 million, while Bahamas has $146.2 million.

Reader, the last stat I will harass you with is the average expenditure per passenger. Average spending per passenger ranged from $64.80 per passenger in the Bahamas, to U$185.40, which is the highest, in St. Maarten..

We have a lot of work to do. It’s obvious in more ways than one we are among the leaders in the industry, and at times we are the leader among our sister Caribbean islands. Becoming number one in any industry today is no easy task. Some of our people make it look easy, but we must not take it for granted. It’s a lot of work and focus. Staying number one is hard, and it’s going to take all hands on deck. Let’s not fool ourselves. Without the cruise industry, as slow as it may seem, we all on this little island would starve, and end up under trees talking about the “GOOD OLD DAYS”, like some others. We can avoid that.

I would like to appeal to the skeptics. When we write on the blogs,in newspapers etc. do remember people abroad read also, and sometimes use this information to take vital decisions. Should we go to St. Maarten or not? Should we start a business on St. Maarten or not?

Freedom of speech is our fundamental right which comes with serious responsibilities, and possible consequences.

Finally, it’s now government’s job to focus on a better wealth distribution. Not only a few merchants should be happy when we see six ships in the harbor, but we all. Government should make more vending facilities available to our people, which will result in more employment. Encourage home porting, where our agriculture can provide vegetables and fruit for our visitors on the ship and in the hotels. We speak many languages, making us a perfect pool for potential high paying jobs in the industry.

We should spend more time on conversion programs, encouraging our cruisers to return for a week in our hotels.

Reader, I don’t pretend to have all the answers, but it’s a start.

Last but not least, we all must continue to encourage our visitors to return to this paradise. Please, you live and eat here, don’t encourage the tourist to go to any other destination as much as you love “home”.

For your information: The numbers above were prepared by the Florida Caribbean Cruise Association (FCCA), and Mr. Nathan Nundas, Chairman of the Caribbean Shipping association of Cruise Committee.

Julian Rollocks

Concerned businessman.

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