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Cruise tourism in need of facelift

Gercine Carter

Cruise tourism in need of facelift

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FIERCE COMPETITION for cruise business from countries like Australia, where major cruise lines from the Southern Caribbean are being repositioned, is forcing Barbados’ tourism planners to rethink strategy to recapture cruise business.
In an interview with BARBADOS BUSINESS AUTHORITY, Ryan Blackett, director of Cruise Tourism at the Barbados Tourism Authority, said: “I think cruise has for a long time been the sleeping giant.”
He added:?“Not much attention has been paid to it and we tend to just look at it when we hear ships are departing and that is not the approach we ought to have for anything in our tourism business. It is too vital for us to have that approach.”
Blackett observed that cruise tourism was a “highly repeat business”, with the majority of cruise passengers not staying over but returning for visits on multiple cruises.
He thought the downside to this situation was Barbados’ failure to refresh its product to capture the interest of the cruise sector.
“For the last few years we have seen a fall-off in the number of attractions but we need to do a much better job in supporting them and ensuring that they do have the ability to reinvent themselves and certainly enhance themselves to attract traditional business,” Blackett said.
“We have not really done anything to revamp our product offering within the last couple of years, so it is really stale.
“We need to look at that from a much more markable standpoint. We need to really analyse that and do a better job on our product offerings,” the BTA official remarked.
He disclosed that the BTA would shortly launch a “slew of initiatives” designed to recapture some of the lost cruise business, and he appealed for additional support from wider tourism interests.
He stressed the need for a national approach, adding that given the level of decline in cruise visitors and visitor spend, the country needed to take a different look at the cruise business.
He acknowledged it would be difficult to recapture some of the business already lost, but he felt a serious plan of action endorsed by Government could see a return to bigger numbers who would spend more money in Barbados.
“We want to see people spending money again and that is why we need the support. We need to have the commerce in place; we need to have the other, ancillary services to entice people to spend money.
There has to be an all-encompassing approach to it,” Blackett argued.