BASSETERRE, St. Kitts – THE Federation’s tourism industry could stand to lose millions of dollars as islands in the Eastern Caribbean continue to rebuild from the passage of Hurricanes Irma and Maria.
Puerto Rico, the region’s hub for cruise vessels, has been hard hit by the hurricanes and it has forced cruise lines to alter their schedules through to 2018.
This has forced local tourism officials to meet with representatives of the cruise liners early next week to find an alternative solution to the problem.
This was disclosed by Tourism Minister Hon. Lindsay Grant, who told reporters during the recently-held website launch and stakeholders meeting that they have planned meeting with representatives from the cruise industry to discuss the matter.
Asked by SKNVibes the possible economic impact this could have on St. Kitts and Nevis, the Minister noted that it is a flaccid situation.
“As we speak, I have been in contact with the itinerary planners on a daily basis. We fly up to Miami next week to speak to the cruise lines. I have actually spoken with the Prime Minister of St. Lucia, Allen Chastanet, and the Minister of Tourism in Antigua and Barbuda to see how we can collaborate to make up for the lost ports in the Easter Caribbean.”
According to the industry’s personnel, the Federation is affected because a number of the islands are used as connecting stops to St. Kitts and Nevis, including the British Virgin Islands and St. Maarten.
That is proving a hurdle for local industry officials as those islands were decimated by the hurricanes.
Grant said: “As you would appreciate, cruise liners are not coming to St. Kitts alone. No matter how good our product is, they need other destinations to visit along with St. Kitts.
“So, with the absence of Puerto Rico, St. Thomas, the BVI and St. Maarten, we have a real ‘acuna’ that we have to fill.”
He is hopeful that when they would have met and had discussions – along with Antigua and St. Lucia – they would able to have the cruise officials reconsider and put St. Kitts and Nevis and the rest of the Eastern Caribbean back on their schedule.
In a statement issued yesterday (Sept. 30), the opposition, St. Kitts-Nevis Labour Party, had pointed to several changes that the cruise lines made for the remainder of 2017 and early 2018.
St. Kitts has been dropped from several calls, while picking up new ones.
Meanwhile, the Minister of Tourism reported that Port Zante did not receive any major damage from the passage of the two hurricanes.
He told reporters that based on the advice he received, the docking area did not receive any damage.
“We did a physical inspection of the Port itself, nothing came up as far as I am advised.”
The Minister stressed that despite being hammer by 160 miles per hour winds, the facility is open for business.