Taking advantage of a booming cruise business
Published: Oct 18, 2013
The Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) cruise ship Breakaway made its maiden voyage to the Port of Nassau yesterday. It brought about 4,000 passengers.
Minister of Tourism Obie Wilchcombe spoke with reporters after its inaugural ceremony and said the ship will bring in about 200,000 passengers to the country per year.
Breakaway offers its guests a variety of dining options and various forms of entertainment, including a casino, aqua park, sports complex and a number of live shows.
Many Bahamians are not aware of what is happening to The Bahamas when it comes to the cruise business. Simply put, it is booming.
According to data from the Ministry of Tourism, 2.8 million cruise visitors came to our country in 2002. Ten years later, in 2012, 4.4 million people visited The Bahamas on cruise ships. The arrivals total nearly doubled in a decade.
While it is true that cruise passengers spend much less than stopover visitors, the potential wealth to be gained from the large number of cruise visitors coming to The Bahamas cannot be ignored.
We must as a country continue to improve our major arrivals center, the Port of Nassau. The Downtown Nassau Partnership, a public-private group, is inching along in its efforts to improve the city center. But at times it appears as if we as a people do not realize how moving slowly on truly enhancing Nassau costs us millions in earnings during a boom time for the cruise business.
While we live in a free market system where business owners can sell what they want, more variety is needed downtown. Store after store on Bay Street is selling jewelry. There is not much else beyond that.
Additionally, we clearly could do more to expand the number of tours on offer to the millions of people who come to the cruise port. While we Bahamians like to blame the government for everything, our entrepreneurs have to do better at innovating and coming up with business concepts geared toward cruise passengers.
It is likely that the reason only 20 percent of cruise passengers coming to The Bahamas leave ships is because there is little for them to do downtown but visit jewelry stores.
It is good that plans are underway to renovate Festival Place to increase its capacity in an effort to encourage more passengers to explore Nassau. Festival Place is essentially the arrivals center for cruise guests. But more is needed from us a people.
“The Bahamas must renew itself. If we don’t do that effectively then you become an old, tired destination, and once that happens people will want to go somewhere else. We want people to be so interested in The Bahamas that they want to spend,” said Wilchcombe.
Receipts from international tourism in destinations around the world grew by four percent in 2012, reaching US$1.075 trillion. Despite the hangover for the global economy persisting from the 2008 financial crisis, tourism is still good business. The Americas recorded the largest increase in receipts last year. The region was up by seven percent.
The other area we must continue to work on is security. After several high-profile robberies of tourists in recent years, the Royal Bahamas Police Force increased the police presence downtown. Consistent police patrols on foot and on bicycles must become the norm to ensure arrivals continue to increase. Too many ships offer alarming warnings to passengers about downtown Nassau.
Wilchcombe spoke simple truths at yesterday’s ceremony.
“We need to create more tours, more activities, more nightlife and ensure that we have activities generally,” he said.
The key part of his statement is “we”. We need to move away from just thinking the government is responsible for creating opportunity and step forward and seize the potential wealth that is right in front of us in the cruise business.