A senior regional tourism official has warned Caribbean nations that their tourism sector could be seriously affected if the cruise ship industry was allowed to operate without regulations.
Vice President of the St. Lucia Hotel and Tourism Association (SLHTA) Berthia Parle told the closing session of a weeklong “Caribbean Media
Exchange (CMEx)”, that the cruise ship industry was harmful to the environment, the hotel sector and land-based tourism in the region.
“The operators of this industry continue to play the game of divide and rule
and heaven help any government who dares to think of increasing the head tax
by two or five dollars US, as the answer is usually a pull out from that particular country”, said Parle, who is soon to take over as President of the Caribbean Hotels Association (CHA).
Speaking on the theme “Cruise Industry Friend or Foe”, Parle said that while the hotel sector continues to face taxes and suffer the effect of an economic down turn, the cruise sector continues to flourish and grow at an unprecedented rate.
“This is due largely to its tax free status and the free ride it endures on the backs of the land based hotels that provide 92 per cent of the tourism revenues, far in excess of the cruise sector.”
Parle complained that the cruise sector refuses to contribute to the regional marketing campaign or any joint initiatives aimed at simulating the regional industry. In addition she observed that it also refused to pay the US1.50 dollar environmental levy to which all land-based hotels were
“They continue to make exorbitant profits, US$1 billion annually, with very
little contribution to the social programs on the islands, save a few toys
at Christmas to under-privileged kids, beach clean ups and painting homes for the elderly”, she said.
Parle called on the CMEx delegates, who comprised leading Tourism and media
representatives to follow Bermuda`s example and insist on some conditions adding that the Caribbean needed to stick together to confront any attempt at retaliatory measures.
Bermuda has insisted that cruise ships operating in its waters employ more Caribbean nationals especially Bermudians, pay a contribution of US1.5
million dollars to an educational fund to assist young people, and that each
passenger coming on shore be provided with a US30 dollar voucher at the ship`s expense.
In addition Bermuda
Bermuda is the only island that charges a head tax of US60 dollars, which is paid to local authorities, and has introduced the restriction of no more than two ships in port at any one time.
Parle says that while the Caribbean accounts for 50 per cent of the world`s cruise market, the profits from cruise tourism were repatriated to the origin countries of cruise liners.
In addition most luxury cruise liners were built with significant Government
subsidy as high as 33 per cent in some instances, a situation that does not
extend to hotel construction in the Caribbean.
“It should come as no surprise therefore that cruise lines are able to blow
away the land based competition with unbeatable vacation offers as low as
US300 dollars per person”, Parle said.
She said that Government policy makers needed to ask the critical question, as to whether the Caribbean is experiencing a net economic gain from the growth of cruise tourism contrasted with the generally poor performance of stay over arrivals.
“If not, are they prepared to implement policy measures that would seek to level the playing field?” she asked.