If Caribbean governments do not stick together, they will sink separately in the face of demands from the Cruise Ship Industry, says the head of a global NGO that champions the importance of sustainable tourism for development.
Lelei LeLaulu, president of the Washington DC-based Counterpart International, has sided with both Berthia Parle, President-elect of the Caribbean Hotel Association and St. Lucia`s Minister of Tourism, Phillip J. Pierre, on the need for a common policy to ensure that the region derives tangible benefits from the cruise ship sector.
“The region has everything to gain and nothing to lose by coming together,” said LeLaulu, in response to reports that some Caribbean destinations were reneging on a joint ministerial decision to levy a US$20 per head tax on the cruise sector. He said the sustainability of the region`s tourism sector demands some tough decisions and to yield to pressure is to “forsake the future prosperity of Caribbean people”.
“There is no hardship for the cruise industry which has hauled billions of dollars worth of profits from the region, while Caribbean airlines and the land-based tourism industry struggle in tough times” said LeLaulu, who wants more Caribbean stakeholders to join the handful who have called for regulation of this lucrative industry.
Quoting a study by Professor Ross Klein, of Canada’s Memorial University of Newfoundland, LeLaulu said the top three cruise lines chalked up a combined total revenue of US$11.5 billion last year, reporting combined net income of $1.66 billion. Key sources of revenue (in addition to passenger fares), he says, comes from onboard sources (such as casinos and bars); shore excursions; and shops.
LeLaulu`s Counterpart International will team with the Caribbean Hotel Association and other industry stakeholders to examine the “corporate responsibility of the cruise sector” when the fifth Caribbean Media Exchange on Sustainable Tourism (CMEx) is held in Barbados, December 4 to 8, 2003.
“The cruise lines can make a huge contribution to regional tourism marketing, environmental sustainability and employment,” said LeLaulu, “but the cruise people will not deal if they are already getting everything they ask for.” LeLaulu noted that Caribbean traders are losing out to the pre-packaging of goods and services aboard these mega-liners, which are often flagged out and owned by offshore corporations which are immensely profitable - but do not pay taxes on their earnings to any country.
Berthia Parle, who also serves as the president of St. Lucia`s Hotel and Tourism Association, said it would be a very sad day for Caribbean tourism if the cruise sector is allowed to divide and rule the Caribbean by simply handpicking vulnerable Ministers of Tourism or islands which are experiencing serious financial problems. “The cruise lines are doing everything in their power not to pay that US$20 per head tax which the Ministers agreed is badly needed in order to assist the islands,” she said.
Minister Phillip Pierre commented that there is a place in the industry for both cruise- and land-based tourism, but understands the contribution from the cruise sector is far from adequate compared to the revenues they earn by operating in the region. Both Minister Pierre and Mrs. Parle are slated to speak at CMEx in Barbados this December.
Related Stories on Caribbean Weekly:
(05/08/03) Barbados to Play Host to CMEx V
(07/08/03) Cruise Sector Boosts Jamaican Tourist Figures
(13/08/03) Ocean Village Cruises Beyond Convention in the Caribbean
(09/05/03) `Cruise Junkie` to Speak at CMEx