St John’s, Antigua – Antigua and Barbuda’s Tourism Minister and other senior industry officials will meet tomorrow with the principals of Carnival Cruise Lines, following a decision by the company to drop the island from the itinerary of one of its vessels – a move that could result in the country losing out on EC$15 million (US$5.6 million) in income every year.
Carnival confirmed that from January 3, 2010, St Maarten will replace Antigua on the Carnival Victory’s seven-day southern Caribbean itinerary. However, the twin-island nation will remain on the Carnival Freedom’s eight-day southern Caribbean cruises from Fort Lauderdale.
“This was a decision we had been contemplating for quite some time. We have not modified this southern Caribbean itinerary in the past four years and had a desire to incorporate a new port of call,” the company said in a statement.
“At the same time, St Maarten holds very strong appeal from a tourism standpoint and we have made a commitment to St Maarten to support the extensive port and infrastructure development currently underway there.”
A statement issued by the Ministry of Tourism yesterday said Antigua and Barbuda has also made progress and it was therefore unclear why it would lose out to St Maarten.
“Argumentatively, Antigua has done such like infrastructural adjustments, and there have been no preceding complaints concerning product delivery in Antigua that would prompt such rapid action, on behalf of the cruise line whose itineraries are published in advance,” it said.
“Upon hearing of the intended pull-out, top cruise and tourism officials sought to have an audience with the principals of Carnival Cruise Lines and the said meeting is set to take place this Thursday in Miami Florida, where the cruise line is based.”
The contingent, led by Tourism Minister John Maginley, will also include Antigua Pier Group representative, Conrad Pole, and Antigua and Barbuda Cruise Tourism Association (ACCTA) President Nathan Dundas.
Despite what Carnival has given as the reason for the pullout, it is generally believed that the move is directly linked to the confrontation between a local taxi driver and six cruise passengers, who arrived on the Carnival Victory earlier this month. That dispute climaxed in a police station brawl and is now engaging the attention of the courts.
“It is the hope of tourism stakeholders that a swift and convivial judgment will bring an end to this latest saga that has placed Antigua and Barbuda’s tourism industry into disarray,” the ministry said.
The assault case has attracted the attention of international media.
The ABCTA said it was very concerned about the negative impact that the matter was having on the country.
“The main concern is the fact that the name and reputation of Antigua and Barbuda has already been negatively impacted by the international news media that has been following this story,” it said.
“Along with the image and reputation of our country, this dropping of Antigua and Barbuda by this vessel will have a major financial impact on our economy. We are estimating that based on the present annual revenues incurred from this ship alone we stand to lose approximately EC$15 million a year or US$5.6 million , and this is a conservative figure.”
The ABCTA, other tourism stakeholders and the Tourism Ministry have been holding a series of meetings in preparation for tomorrow’s talks with Carnival Cruise Line officials.