ANTIGUA : Vendors, taxi drivers nervous about cruise line cancellations

(ANTIGUA OBSERVER) – Several taxi drivers and vendors have expressed worry over a recent announcement by the President of the Antigua and Barbuda Cruise Tourism Association (ABCTA) that Carnival Cruise Line has cancelled all scheduled calls to the ports of Antigua and Barbuda.

Nathan Dundas informed the public yesterday that the Carnival Cruise Line decided to cancel all bookings for the ships Carnival Breeze, Carnival Magic, Carnival Legend and Carnival Pride, that were scheduled to arrive in Antigua from November 2019.

OBSERVER spoke to Antigua and Barbuda Taxi Association member Clefrin “Chalky” Colbourne about the recent developments.

He said the taxi drivers are extremely concerned about what this report means for their business.

“The drivers are now understanding that we will be losing four of our best cruise liners coming into Antigua. We have been enjoying the benefits of these passengers that spend money on taxis to the beach, on tours, for ziplining and to Stingray City. When we lose this cruise line and we may be soon losing more; we are worried,” he said.

According to Dundas, each ship was estimated to bring over 2,500 passengers per voyage to the island and, as a result of the pullout, vendors and taxi drivers stand to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue.

Colbourne told OBSERVER that the news will affect everyone who’s directly and indirectly associated with the tourism industry.

“This will not only affect the taxi drivers, the vendors and the storekeepers; this will trickle down to the smallest man on the street because when we do well, everyone does well,” he said.

He called on the government to reconsider the Global Ports agreement and to invite key stakeholders to have a serious discussion to save the cruise tourism industry.

Colbourne also indicated that members of the taxi association were contemplating sending a team to the Prime Minister’s Office to hold discussions.

“We are calling on the government to be smart and reasonable. [Do not think that] because you had made a decision it will be unfeasible,” he said, adding that the government should come up with ideas to fix the cruise tourism product if it believes that the brand is the worst in the region.

Carnival Cruise Line did not give an exact rationale for the decision, other than stating it was a change in itinerary.

However Colbourne believes the threat of an increase in the passenger head tax is one of main reasons for the sudden cancellation by the cruise line.

He said the Government of Antigua and Barbuda should follow in the Bahamas’ footsteps and invite businessmen and businesswomen to invest in the port.

“I have heard that [the government] had tried to borrow money but gave up and decided to let the port be managed by Global Ports. I do not believe that is the answer. Bahamas had invited its businessmen and businesswomen to invest. We have people interested in investing,” he said.

“It is our management system that is bad. This is an issue not unique to one political party because on both sides we have had persons in the wrong positions,” the taxi driver added.

OBSERVER also spoke to some vendors to get their views on the matter, and one of them said she ‘did not like what was going on and was hurting’.

The vendor, who makes local handicraft for a living, said the news will impact her plans to use her saved earnings to take her son on a holiday to visit relatives in the United States.

“Everyone is going to be hurt, not just the vendors but the duty-free shopkeepers and everyone else because we are all in the tourism business,” she said.

Dundas told OBSERVER that as a result of the cancellations many tourism stakeholders stand to lose much-needed revenue.