Andy Harmer, SVP membership & director, CLIA UK & Ireland, updates Travel Daily Media on the Caribbean cruise market.
Over 146,000 British holidaymakers chose to take a Caribbean cruise in 2016 – a fact that I’m sure we can all agree comes as no surprise given the huge appeal of the region.
White sand beaches and crystal clear waters, not to mention each island’s own distinct and vibrant character, are all part of the Caribbean’s irresistible charm.
With hurricane season hitting the region in September, a number of islands and their inhabitants were tragically affected by the impact. As a result, it would be easy to conclude that now is not the time to be visiting given the huge relief effort and reconstruction taking place. However, the cruise sector is doing quite the opposite.
Contrary to what some may think, the majority of the islands have been unaffected and in fact, nearly 100 ports – almost 90 per cent are open and fully operational – welcoming thousands of cruise ship passengers to their shores.
As we are all too aware, tourism is a top driver for the islands’ economic well-being and that cruise plays a vital role in this. For this reason, it’s important for both cruise lines and holidaymakers to continue to support so many of the Caribbean islands that are open for business and eager to provide visitors with the incredible holiday experiences that they’ve come to expect from the region.
By the beginning of December Royal Caribbean International’s scheduled cruises to San Juan, St. Maarten, and St. Thomas will operate as planned, including visits from Oasis of the Seas, Allure of the Seas and Harmony of the Seas, carrying nearly 6,000 visitors every week. Carnival Cruise Line will soon return to all those destinations as well, resuming calls to San Juan at the end of November and St. Thomas and St. Maarten in early January.
The Tortola Pier Park, the British Virgin Islands’ major cruise destination, is also displaying its quick recovery, with a partial reopening of the facility planned for 1 November, followed by a Christmas celebration on 22 and 23 December and a restoration campaign letting the public know that the park’s efforts will continue.
The travel industry is resilient and there is no doubt that the Caribbean is bouncing back. With the region in the spotlight, now is a great time for the Caribbean islands (and the UK travel industry that works with the destinations) to distinguish their individual offerings in line with consumer trends in order to attract more international travellers. Whilst the region is known for its incredible beaches and relaxing, sun-soaked getaways, we can also take this time to highlight the incredible cultural experiences to be had such as the amazing gastronomy and active adventure.
So, with the Caribbean very much ‘open for business’ my advice to everyone would be to highlight this as much as possible to customers. The region is a fantastic destination offering a broad range of exciting holiday experiences, so let’s ensure that we are doing our best to highlight this in support of the region at a time when it is most needed.