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Jamaica's Cruise Industry

Cautious optimism in Jamaica's cruise sector

ALESIA EDWARDS  Dec 13, 2009

OCHO RIOS, St Ann - Local stakeholders within the tourism industry are cautiously optimistic about the prospects for the cruise industry when the 2010 winter seasons starts on December 15.

Vice-president of cruise and marine operations at the Port Authority of Jamaica, William Tatham, said although some international cruise companies remained strong during the world recession, the cruise industry for Jamaica will not fully rebound until 2011.

"The cruise industry is resilient and it has responded pretty well to difficult times," Tatham told the Sunday Observer. "We are really holding out for next year. We anticipate the same numbers this year, but things are going to be a little flat."

Close to 1.1 million cruise passengers visited the island last year and Tatham said the numbers should remain the same for the coming year. He said stakeholders can expect significant increases in 2011 when the Falmouth port welcomes Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas, one of the world's largest cruise ships, in December 2010.

"We are expecting record growth for 2011 and beyond ... probably somewhere in the region of about 50 per cent," Tatham said, and explained that the Falmouth port will allow Jamaica to accept more calls, particularly on Tuesdays through to Thursdays which are considered critical cruise days.

Nonetheless, the ports in Montego Bay and Ocho Rios are expected to be busy over the next three months, as several ships -- two new ones included -- are expected to call at the ports. Approximately 48 vessels are likely to visit Montego Bay and Ocho Rios during this month and about 40 in January.

"It's good to see a few vessels coming in because the last couple of months were extremely slow, sometimes although a ship was in port we can't find any passengers, but we hope all that will change, at least for now," ground transport operator Maxie Atkinson told the Sunday Observer.

Craft traders, who depend heavily on business from cruise passengers, are also hopeful that with business looking bright for the cruise industry and countries rebounding from the world recession, things will be better for them.

"We know that the world recession had a severely negative impact on a lot of people but we are hopeful that we will see some light for the rest of the year and the season," said vice-president of the Jamaica Craft Traders and Producers Association Devon Mitchell.

Mitchell explained that small craft traders have been struggling to remain in the industry, particularly since they have to compete with in-bond merchants, attractions and hotels.

"We are really looking forward to a better year, but if the small craft traders are to really benefit from increased cruise arrivals, Government has to move to protect the craft industry," said Mitchell. "We need the craft markets to be featured in the different marketing campaign."

In the meantime, Tatham said Carnival Cruise Line and Princess Cruises have orders for new ships and that it is good news for Jamaica. He said once Jamaica can increase on its berthing space, the ports will be able to accept more calls.

"Stakeholders should remain optimistic, so while 2010 will remain flat, 2011 will be a year of significant growth," Tatham said.

Cautious optimism in Jamaica's cruise sector
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