Port Authority confident about cruise industry's COVID-19 recoveryMonday, April 05, 2021
The Port Authority of Jamaica (PAJ) is optimistic that with pent-up tourist demand worldwide and the huge spending power waiting to be unleashed, the cruise market appears poised for recovery.
This optimism follows severe losses of revenue over the last year by the cruise industry which was among the hardest hit by the novel coronavirus pandemic.
The absence of cruise ships has taken a huge financial toll on many local tourism entities, including those in the craft and duty free shopping sectors, as well as transportation/tour operators.
Recently, with the global push towards vaccination, there has been renewed optimism and focus on restoring passenger confidence and ways to get the industry sailing again.
Vice-president of cruise shipping and marina operations at The PAJ William Tatham indicated that the agency has invested in preparation for the return of cruise ships to the island's ports.
“…As it became clearer and clearer that things were not going to improve, we moved into the position of trying to better understand what we needed to do to return to business safely. We started to communicate with cruise lines directly to try and understand how they too will return to business, as well as other ports globally, especially in Europe where we were able to speak to a number of those ports to get an understanding of what their approach was,” Tatham said at the 5th Caribbean Infrastructure Forum (CARIF 2021) held last week.
“We were very careful to not immediately do a knee-jerk reaction to acquiring a ton of safety equipment without really recognising what would be needed and best utilised. We also started looking at each of our ports and the operations themselves to see how we could move passengers through and around our port terminals in a safe way, ” he continued, adding that the agency recognised that this planning will be of benefit generally in the longer term.
He however pointed out that pre-pandmic, The PAJ had made the decision to not increase the carrying capacity per ship out of its ports beyond what they already were, to limit intermingling and increase guest experience.
“…Because of the size of the ships, we felt it wasn't necessarily in the best interest to basically get as many ships into a single port as we could. Even though you would have the benefit of the economies of scale, we felt it diminished the guest experience,” Tatham contended.
He added that in the future, The PAJ will design cruise ports to facilitate one or two ships so that operations can be more manageable, efficient, and deliver a better guest experience.
There are five cruise ports in Jamaica, located in the cities of Montego Bay, Ocho Rios, Falmouth, Port Antonio, and Kingston.
“We are very confident of the return of the business, it's only a matter of time and there are clear indications. We're just biding our time and implementing our plans at this point,” he expressed.
“At the end of the day, the vaccination is the game changer and that's what will make everything different. It's not only going to bring the confidence of the passengers who want to sail on these vessels but it's going to bring the confidence to the destinations that they are visiting,” he said.
Sponsored by CIBC FirstCaribbean and KPMG, CARIF 2021 featured policymakers, technocrats and private sector experts who shared their perspective and leadership on the critical issues impacting the future of infrastructure in the Caribbean.
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