CDC advisory against cruise travel will be short-lived, ignored, tourism officials predictFriday, December 31, 2021
BY CHARMAINE N CLARKE
MONTEGO BAY, St James — Local tourism players yesterday said the advisory against cruise travel issued by the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will likely not last long and may possibly be ignored by passengers eager to get back on the high seas. However, they conceded that there will inevitably be disruptions, some of which have already begun.
“I believe the requirements, as we see it, may be short-lived. And we keep our fingers crossed in that direction. But we do understand why there is need for us to take all the necessary precautions,” said Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett.
He said his hopes are pinned on indications, so far, that the Omicron strain of the novel coronavirus, which triggered the advisory, will run its course globally within four to six weeks.
Like Bartlett, vice-president of cruise shipping and marina operations at The Port Authority of Jamaica, William Tatham, suggested that passengers will likely ignore the CDC's advice to avoid cruising.
Recommendations made by the CDC are non-binding but are closely followed by US businesses and policymakers.
Only this month Jamaica saw a return of cruise ships at all five ports of call when Montego Bay received the Carnival Glory, ending a long drought brought on by the novel coronavirus. The recovery of the cruise ship sector is being relied upon to provide a significant share of the revenue earned from tourism. The goal is three million visitors by 2025. It is also being relied upon to funnel some of the tourism dollar to smaller players.
Yesterday Bartlett said the CDC advisory had come at “a very inopportune time for tourism, especially for the economies of countries that are highly tourism-dependent in the Caribbean”.
The ripples are already being felt, according to Tatham, and cruise lines will have to up their game.
“I do know that some cruise lines have had to reroute and to do some changes in their itineraries already. I think the cruise industry is going to keep themselves opened. Unless they are mandated to close, I don't think they want to go through that,” he said, adding that he does not anticipate any calls from the CDC for mandatory closure.
Even with fewer passengers, he said, it is cheaper for ships to sail than shut down their operations.
He views the CDC advisory as a signal to cruise lines that it is time to up their game, a challenge he thinks they will accept.
“I don't know for sure, but based on how cruising initially restarted, I think cruise lines will up their level of protocols and their requirements,” he said. “I think they will probably look to keeping the passenger counts reduced and may even lead to further reductions. I think they're going to do everything in their power not to have the business disrupted, even if it means redeploying and coming up with some new itineraries, spending more time at private islands and doing things like that.”
Vessels that fail to improve safety protocols, he said, will soon find themselves unwelcome guests globally.
“They're not going to find many ports that are able to accommodate them [unless they can provide a safe environment]. So they're going to do everything they can to ensure that they are safe,” Tatham predicted.