Bartlett to meet cruise lines Friday amid coronavirus concernsWednesday, March 04, 2020
BY ALPHEA SAUNDERS
Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett is scheduled to meet with cruise line representatives on Friday to discuss forward bookings in light of the coronavirus (COVID-19) threat which has forced the health ministry to issue interim guidelines for cruise ships visiting Jamaica.
The health authorities blocked one cruise vessel from Ocho Rios, St Ann last week Tuesday due to concerns about the virus. The health ministry said the MSC Meraviglia was turned away after it was discovered that a sick person had been quarantined on-board.
Last Friday, Italian nationals were prevented from disembarking Carnival Cruise Lines' Costa Luminosa in Ocho Rios. Italy is among the five countries for which Jamaica has now issued travel restrictions. The others are China, South Korea, Singapore, and Iran.
Responding to questions at Parliament's Standing Finance Committee yesterday about the impact of COVID-19, which has now spread to 64 countries and infected 90,893 people, Bartlett said “We will have a better sense of how things are looking down the road”. His reference was to forward bookings following Friday's meeting.
He said while bookings are showing a “holding pattern”, this is not likely to prevail within the next two to three months, as already bookings have ceased from Italy, and there is a softening in the continental European markets such as France and Germany.
However, he said major markets such as the United Kingdom, United States, and Canada, as well as South America are holding well for the moment.
“We are very conscious (as) we monitor the markets every day and we are in touch with our partners and we will see when the shakings begin and adapt to it accordingly... there is going to be some softening. We are watching to see how March operates, particularly because it has spring break and the carnivals and so on. This is a very important month for us to watch to see how the trends go,” Bartlett told the committee, which is reviewing the 2020/21 budgetary allocation for ministries, agencies, and departments.
He said there is a silver lining in relation to the cruise market for summer, as Europe, Asia, and the Mediterranean are usually the strong markets for that period, but the Caribbean could benefit this year based on the situation in those regions.
“We feel that the Caribbean is going to be a beneficiary based on what's happening there. So we could see some changes with cruise in an upward way,” he said.