Tourism officials facing bleak prospects with no cruise visitors expected in Barbados

Tourism stakeholders are preparing to endure the first summer, possibly in decades, where absolutely no cruise ships will be visiting this country’s shores.

General Manager of Atlantis Submarines Barbados Roseanne Myers who, since February last year has been Chairing the Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc. (BTMI), acknowledged that the outlook for the period May to September is bleak.

But she also believes that a decision on the Crop Over festival paired with a targeted marketing strategy could swiftly improve the industry’s fortunes.

“Even though it is not a significant number, we would normally have at least one cruise ship calling and a cruise ship calling every other week in pre-COVID times. We now don’t have any cruise ships,” Myers told Barbados TODAY.

“It’s probably going to be the first time, certainly since I’ve been with Atlantis that we haven’t had any summer ships calling at all and that is cause for concern, because even though we may normally have one ship a week, it still is a significant business for that one day, because that ship can give us two or three tours and every other week the same,” stressed the executive.

At the height of the pandemic, dozens of cruise ships were allowed to berth off the coasts of Barbados at a time when COVID restrictions in other destinations left them stranded. And, in many cases, the crews and cruise companies promised to return.

But despite the challenges, Myers believes there may be a silver lining beyond the cruise industry. She explained that whilst May and June are traditionally difficult, July and August are often much more promising.

“It really is very much the local market and that traffic that comes for Crop Over,” Myers explained.

“And it’s not that they are coming in the summer for Crop Over only. Summer brings family traffic and we are a family-oriented company. So I think that we are interested to see what will happen with Crop Over and that whole festive feeling in the summer,” she added.

In addition to the absent vessels, the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association (BHTA) revealed that hotel occupancy will also dip well below 40 per cent in April, May and June.

“We have signalled to the BTMI that we need to have some discussion with respect to what marketing tactics we would engage in for the summer period,” BHTA CEO Rudy Grant told Barbados TODAY.

Authorities have not yet decided whether the Crop Over festival will be held this year, but the final call is said to rest with Prime Minister Mia Mottley.

There is also optimism about the relaxation of COVID protocols across the United Kingdom, which is Barbados’ main tourism source market. Even more promising is a clear intention from local public health officials to relax this country’s restrictions.

“A major thrust from the island and from individual businesses, I think, could still make a positive impact on the summer period, so I think that is basically the thrust that we need to have,” said Myers.

“We’re now at a stage where we don’t have as many [COVID restrictions] and the world needs to know that Barbados, from all aspects, in terms of all the tours in the marine environment and all the land-based tours, is open, so that when you come, you are free to go and do whatever you want to do, very much like before.

“I think even when you look at travel, people are concerned that they could go somewhere and then they can’t do anything. Now that we are fully reopened, I think that we’re all going to have to get together as a private sector as well and see how we can push that word overseas that we’re all open and there are exciting things to do again,” she contended.

But she underscored the need for the country to focus on direct marketing, noting that since the start of the pandemic, many local companies were still trying to recoup monies owed by international tour operators.

One way the senior executive believes this can be bolstered is by offering combination tours.

“So I can come to Atlantis and then I can do an island tour or go to Harrison Cave because we do transfers and pickups from the hotels. People want seamless, people want to do it easily. People don’t mind going out and about, but if they come to Atlantis and then they can be taken from there out to lunch or something, then it’s all in a flow and they go back to the hotel.

“We have to facilitate and make it easier. So we’re going to launch a series of combination tours as part of all of the stuff we’re working on to roll out in the summer.

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