JLP calls for boost to cruise shipping sector
OPPOSITION spokesperson on tourism and cruise shipping, Shahine Robinson, has called for a stakeholders' team to be established to address the problems affecting Jamaica's cruise shipping sector.
Robinson urged Minister of Tourism Dr Wykeham McNeill, in a news release last Friday, to pull together a stakeholders' team to boost berthing capacity and cruise ship arrivals; balance the cruise ship traffic spread across the resort towns; and make the resort towns more attractive.
She suggested that the team should focus on aggressively courting major cruise lines; balance the cruise shipping traffic to include Port Antonio, which has massive potential for exclusive boutique tourism, and make the resort towns too attractive to be ignored by visitors.
Robinson said that, currently, there is a "gross lack of direction" from the government on cruise shipping. She pointed out that her concerns have come on the heels of recent announcements by the world's largest cruise operator, Carnival Cruise Lines, of its intent to develop a US$70 million cruise ship port in Tortuga, Haiti, and its scheduled opening of a another port in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic.
She also expressed serious concern that as of May next year, Carnival Breeze, one of the largest ships built for Carnival, will no longer call at Ocho Rios. She said this will result in a fall-off of approximately 100,000 visitors per year, job losses and a decline in business.
Robinson also reiterated the point she had made in her recent sectoral debate contribution, that cruise shipping was being treated like the "stepchild" of the tourism sector, although it offers many opportunities for growth.
She noted that Jamaica's cruise ship arrivals last year were down by 4.2 per cent over 2012, with Ocho Rios down by 3.2 per cent and Montego Bay down by an "alarming" 29.8 per cent.