Tourism officials in Antigua and Barbuda say they have held successful meetings with over ten cruise lines as well as executives of the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association, ahead of what is expected to be a bumper season.
Chief Executive Officer, (CEO) of the Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Authority, (ABTA) Mr. Colin James led a delegation to the 28th FCCA Annual Conference, held in Santa Domingo, Dominican Republic, from October 11th -14th.
James said cruise tourism is a fast-growing component of the island’s tourism industry and “since we’re now experiencing a strong recovery after being at a standstill due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, the staging of the conference is timely. The upcoming winter season promises to be record-breaking for cruise arrivals. Some 182,120 passengers from 108 calls are expected during the last quarter of this year with January 2023 projected to be our busiest month for the season with 79 calls and 135,810 passengers to St. Johns.”
James said the delegation also participated in high-level meetings with major players in the cruise tourism industry.
The team comprised St. Clair Soleyn, Senior Project Manager, and. Simone Richards, Policy Specialist, both at the Ministry of Tourism & Investment, and Mr. Darwin Telemaque, CEO, of Antigua and Barbuda Port Authority, among others.
According to James, as the dynamics of travel platforms continue to evolve, discussions varied by cruise companies.
“Hundreds of Antiguans and Barbudans continue to benefit from the career opportunities that Royal Caribbean and MSC cruise lines offer. Simultaneously, the delegation was pleased with the announcement that Virgin Voyages’, whose deployment to the region this year was delayed due to logistical challenges will be calling on Antigua in 2023,” he said.
According to reports, cruise lines are now mandated to reduce their carbon footprint, a regulation with which they must comply and this will affect the ports they deploy in their itineraries.
James said the delegation shared the news that Antigua has now commenced the installation of 6 Liquified Natural Gas, (LNG) generators which will be deployed in April 2023. In that regard, Princess Cruise Lines advised they will also be launching their Sun Princess, which carries 4,300 passengers, its first LNG vessel, to call on St. Johns in 2023. With the stringent U.S. policies concerning emissions, Antigua anticipates that more USA-based ships will make the island a port of call.
Meanwhile a high-level delegation of 6 executives from Carnival, UK P&O Cruise lines will visit Antigua in mid-November for meetings with cruise officials and Prime Minister Gaston Browne.
This meeting will be followed by technical meetings with the respective government agencies. Additionally, with a huge percentage of the overall cruise traffic coming from the United States, homeporting from other lines in Antigua is also now under serious consideration.
The Antigua delegation shared with cruise line executives that after successful negotiations, St. Johns will be the only port in the Eastern Caribbean offering electronic clearance for arriving vessels.
By submitting the ship’s manifests to Antigua’s port regulatory agencies, the evening before arrival in St. Johns, their passengers will clear immigration and customs in advance so that once berthed, disembarkation may immediately begin.
CEO James also spoke optimistically of an increase in arrivals for summer 2023. He shared that summer 2022, was a challenge for the entire region with only 4 cruise ship calls reported. However, some 18 calls are already projected for the period of May to September 2023.