ST JOHNS, Antigua – Following statements by shipping agent, Nathan Dundas that Carnival Cruise Lines canceled all bookings to Antigua and Barbuda commencing next season November 2019 to 2020, the ministry of tourism called the statements deceptive, adding, “It is significant that, at no time, did Dundas contact the ministry, the port authority or the tourism authority before his statement.
“The ministry of tourism and investment condemns unequivocally, a misleading and scare-mongering statement made by a local shipping agent, Dundas, which serves the purposes of interested parties, other than the people of Antigua and Barbuda.”
The statement continued: “Dundas says that Carnival Cruise Lines has canceled its four upcoming calls for the winter 2019/20 season and that more cancellations are to follow. However, what he does not reveal is that normally, Carnival Cruise Lines make only three or four calls to Antigua and Barbuda annually. The one exception to this pattern was the 2017-18 winter season when Hurricanes decimated other destinations, causing Carnival to take advantage of Antigua’s fully functioning port.”
“The total number of passengers that could be affected by these cancellations is approximately 12,200. This is a relatively small number of the total cruise passengers that visit our country annually. Therefore, while we regret any loss of business, however, small in percentage terms, we do not anticipate any significant adverse impact on the stakeholders in our economy.”
“In choosing to issue his statement publicly, for reasons best known to himself, Dundas caused unnecessary fear among cruise stakeholders, and the general public which was his intention, particularly by his personal and unsubstantiated claim that he expects to see ‘more cancellations going forward’.
“The ministry of tourism makes it clear that we value highly our long-standing and mutually beneficial partnership with Carnival Cruise Lines, and we will do all in our power to enhance it. We are seeking sustainable cruise tourism partnerships for the empowerment of all, not just for the benefit of a few.”
Meantime, Prime Minister Gaston Browne’s decision to improve the local cruise industry has received reassurance from industry leaders following recent meetings in Miami between Frank Del Rio, chief executive officer of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings (NCLH) and Emre Sayin, chief executive officer of Global Ports Holding PLC (GPH) to discuss GPH’s agreement to manage the cruise port of Antigua.
Rio explained: “As a company that is focused on delivering a high-quality product to discerning guests, we are pleased to learn of GPH’s intention to invest in Antigua’s tourism infrastructure to improve the guest experience. We are thrilled that GPH has made this financial commitment to Antigua and are excited to move forward together to grow the cruise business to this beautiful island.”
“Our investment is intended to be a catalyst to grow Antigua’s cruise business, and this is a great step forward. We are looking forward to working with the people of Antigua and our cruise line partners to improve the impact of cruise tourism on Antigua,” Sayin said.
Executive chairman of MSC Cruises Pierfrancesco Vago and chairman of Global Ports Holding (GPH) Mehmet Kutman also met recently to discuss opportunities to work together in the Caribbean.
Vago said he was delighted to learn of GPH’s recent agreement with the government of Antigua and Barbuda to redevelop and manage the cruise complex, adding, “Antigua is a port we have long been meaning to grow as a part of our regional deployment. Under GPH’s stewardship, we are confident that the guest experience will be considerably enhanced. We are happy to announce that we are exploring ways to support the growth of Antigua’s cruise traffic with our award-winning ships. MSC currently has 13 ships on order, and we want to take our ships to ports that cater to our clientele. Our partnership with GPH is beneficial in this respect.”
Kutman added, “We value highly our relationship with MSC, a cruise company that we have worked with for many years. Together, we look forward to helping Antiguans benefit from the cruise business through the growth of jobs and other opportunities. Antigua is a beautiful island with friendly people. We are proud of our partnership and look forward to a long, beneficial relationship.”
To build the economic powerhouse of the Caribbean, Browne is seeking sustainable public, private partnerships that will pump more money into the local economy.
Antigua and Barbuda is poised, to enhance contractual agreements and cooperation with Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, Global Ports Holding PLC, MSC Cruises, and other relevant parties to achieve economic growth and success that leads to the next more substantial socio-economic undertaking.