In this exclusive interview Caribbean Travel News talks with William Tatham - Vice President Cruise Shipping & Marina Operations, Port Authority of Jamaica. He explains what it is that Jamaica has that other islands lack and why the cruise sector will continue to flourish over the coming years. Caribbean Travel News: Jamaica falls into the western cruise run- what is it that sets Jamaica apart from other cruise destinations in the western run such as the Caymans and the Bahamas?
William Tatham: Jamaica stands apart from the other islands because of the scope of activities our visitors can experience. Like the other destinations we have great beaches and great shopping, but we stay ahead of the game because there’s a whole different layer of things to do and see that you won’t find anywhere else. We are truly the complete destination. There’s also what I like to call the Jamaican connection; most people around the world have some context in which they can relate to the island, so they feel that they already know us, before they arrive.
It is cited that the cruise industry generates some US80-100 million for the Jamaican economy and that this is set to increase by some 10 per cent in the next ten years - do you believe this figures to be viable?
In 2001 the Florida Caribbean Cruise Association commissioned a study by Pricewaterhouse which indicated the earnings from cruise for the various Caribbean islands including Jamaica. A separate study by the Jamaica Tourist Board supported these figures, and so we’re very confident that these figures are accurate. Since then we have been committed to increasing our onshore offering resulting in increased tour activities on a ship by ship basis. Based on our projections we see these figures increasing by a minimum of 10 percent over the next ten years.
Some say that Jamaica can offer more in a one hour port call then any other island in the Caribbean - if this is true what is it that Jamaica offers that is so unique?
The compelling thing about Jamaica is that it’s more: more activities leading to more memorable experiences. One hour is essentially what cruise visitors want to set aside before they get to the big “wow”, and in some instances they don’t even have to travel that long. Ocho Rios is a great example: In addition to visiting our world famous Dunns River Falls you can walk to exceptional duty free shopping or you can walk to a Reggae Explosion, a museum devoted to the story of reggae. You can get active with an ATV tour of the mountains or you can explore a ceramics workshop. You can choose to swim with the dolphins, or you can go horseback riding. As a destination, Jamaica has the remarkable ability to fit almost every need and interest, and that’s a significant advantage for us. This proximity to a variety of attractions is replicated in our other cruise ports, Montego Bay and Port Antonio.
How are cruise arrivals from the UK at present?
We are on steady rebound after a decline resulting from the sale of Sun Cruises by My Travel. Several other lines have ramped up their calls to our ports, among them Fred Olsen, P&O Cruises, Swan Hellenic and Saga. We are upbeat about the growth prospects for UK cruise arrivals and I feel that next year is going to be outstanding for us in your market.
How does the Jamaica Port Authority make money from the vessels that dock at the island?
Our income comes from the basic services offered in the ports, but the greater part comes from a user/facility fee which is charged to the line on a passenger by passenger basis and is reinvested into our cruise ports.
If you were talking to someone in Europe who had never been to the Caribbean, what would you say to entice them to experience it for themselves?
For me, it is the immense natural beauty of the Caribbean that makes it a must-see destination. I’ve found that European visitors are keen about enjoying simple pleasures, and therein lies the strength of region. Across the Caribbean you’ll encounter astonishing beauty, but there is also the experience of connecting with people who really want to share their island with you, even for a short time.
How important is being nominated for a World Travel Award to you and the Jamaica Port Authority?
It is a tremendous honour for us to be recognised by the World Travel Awards. We’ve worked hard over the last five years to re-image Jamaica in the minds of cruise executives so it’s very rewarding to know that our strategies have hit the target. We’ve also worked with our partners in the cruise ports to improve the experiences passenger have when they come to the island, and we know that we’ve made great strides in that regard.
With thanks to William Tatham Vice President Cruise Shipping & Marina Operations Port Authority of Jamaica.