'We can't take it anymore': stakeholders say cruise absence has taken huge toll on businessesFriday, July 23, 2021
ST JAMES, Jamaica — Noting that the absence of the cruise ships has brought untold hardships to their business operations, tourism stakeholders say the time is right for a seamless reopening of the seaports.
They are also pointing to the fact that cruise tourism has been resuming in ports worldwide and that the health protocols are in place here locally in Jamaica to accommodate the return of the ships.
“I can't begin to tell you the impact it has had on my business,” laments Ocho Rios businessman Garfield Dussard.
“Our seaports have been closed now for nearly 16 months and many small operators like myself have been reeling. Not many of us are still around to tell the tale unfortunately as some persons have had to pivot into something else, considering the devastation to their businesses.”
Dussard, who runs a watersports operation, said he has managed to survive based on “the little pickings from the hotels” and hope the Government will do all that it can to lobby for a quick return of the cruise ships.
He also added that while he can understand the nervousness “in some quarters” regarding the return of the cruise ships and the opening up of the seaports, “I can't see how it will be any different than when we reopened our airports.”
“From what I have gleaned…most cruise passengers will be vaccinated and therefore pose very little risk to our general population,” he added. “The resilient corridors have a proven track record of success. That is the template we should use when dealing with the cruise ships.”
President of the All-Island Craft Traders and Producers Association, Melody Haughton, agreed. She said it has been a very difficult period for craft traders all around and that “we are all eagerly awaiting a return of the cruise ships”.
“Even though we have not seen the cruise ships since last year March we have been ensuring that all our health and safety protocols remain intact where we can welcome back our cruise passengers. Let us not forget who have been feeling the brunt and effects of this COVID-19 pandemic. Ever since the seaports were closed, craft traders, transport operators, shop owners…the smaller players…we have been the hardest hit. I am hoping that everyone is on board to see that cruise shipping can resume,” she said.
“We are very confident that, just like how our stopover visitors have been coming back in much larger numbers and without hurting the country as it relates to COVID-19 cases, the same thing can happen with the cruise ships. We are hoping that no effort will be spared so we can get the ships back as quickly as possible.”
Preliminary data from the Jamaica Tourist Board indicates that cruise passengers accounted for over 1.5 million of the approximately 4.3 million tourists visiting the island in 2019.
Chairman of the Jamaica Co-operative Automobile and Limousine Tours Ltd, Brian Thelwell, says that even though tour bus drivers are among the hardest hit by the absence of the cruise ships, “we have been making every effort” to remain COVID-19 compliant”.
“The buses are equipped with their sanitisers, and once the passengers come out of the vehicle, all the handles and everything sanitised to ensure that the next passenger will be as safe as the first,” he said.
“This is what we have been doing with our hotel guests and the same will be done with our cruise passengers.”
Thelwell said that his organisation is urging the Government to do all that it can to accelerate the return of cruise ships, noting that it will also give the ailing tourism sector a significant boost.
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