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Cruise sector gears for another bumper season

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The country’s cruise tourism industry is in for another bumper year as the figures have been projected to surpass those of the 2005/6 season by a whopping 21 per cent.

News of this comes from President of the Antigua & Barbuda Cruise Tourism Association (ABCTA) Nathan Dundas who indicated that probable figures for 2006/7 season points towards a bumper year with anticipation of at least nine different ships calling the island during the season.

For the 2005/6 season the country experienced the highest ever number of passengers to date, with over 620,000. Added to that, there were a record number of seven to eight cruise ships berthing on the same day.

In the month of December 2005 alone 102,000 passengers were in port.

“Based on the number of calls booked, we expect for the first time to reach the 700,000 passenger mark. This will be an increase of over 180,000 passengers over last season.”

Added to the itinerary will be the famous QE2 which will make its inaugural call to the island during that period. Disney Cruise Line has indicated its intention to return.

The top five cruise lines for 2006 were listed as Royal Caribbean International, which made 84 calls, Carnival Cruise lines, 60, Norwegian Cruise line, 54, Princess Cruise line 44 and P&O Cruise line, 18.

The summer of 2007 will see calls from Carnival Destiny on a weekly basis and the Carnival Liberty will dock once a month.

As the country looks ahead to Cricket World Cup 2007, the cruise sector has received solid bookings from at least four cruise ships.

“While the contracts have been signed for these, the itineraries for the ships are still being worked out. No doubt this will greatly assist the accommodation issues affecting most of the islands for this significant season.”

Dundas underscored the desire of the ABCTA and the government in ensuring that all stakeholders derive maximum benefits from the industry. In this connection, industry partners are working on various strategies to increase passenger spending and to improve the necessary infrastructure to accommodate the enhanced numbers.

The cruise industry is not all a rosy picture, according to Dundas. He said there were several issues still pending that may affect the overall returns to be gleaned from the sector. He pointed to the introduction of the Antigua & Barbuda Sales Tax as one critical matter that may cause some worry in the industry.

“…It needs to be properly looked at so that we do not have any negative impacts to the industry as many stakeholders continue to rely on the industry for their livelihood including taxi drivers, vendors, merchants, tour operators and restaurants.”

by Marabel Jacobs, Antigua Sun

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