Royal Caribbean cruise gets mixed reviews from Tobago stakeholders
Tobago stakeholders have mixed views about the decision of Royal Caribbean International cruise lines to include Trinidad and Tobago as one of its destinations in the 2021/2022 season.
While some welcomed the move, others were sceptical given the country’s challenges to contain the spread of covid19.
Tobago Chamber president Martin George said although the organisation is always eager and willing to welcome cruise ships, “we have to question and wonder at this point in time, if all the necessary safety protocols are in place to really allow the docking of a Royal Caribbean cruise ship in TT.”
He added: “If it is that we have a scenario where even our nationals are not allowed free entry into TT, it begs the question as to why would Royal Caribbean be allowed, or be available to access special privileges for its passengers who would not be nationals of TT, to be able to land and disembark in TT in such circumstances.”
George said these questions must be answered.
“As I said, we are always willing to embrace any opportunity to expand our tourism template and to ensure that we broaden and widen our tourism package.
“But, we must be careful that we don’t do so at the risk of our citizens or at the expense of putting visitors ahead of our own citizens.”
Tobago Hotel and Tourism Association vice-president Carol-Ann Birchwood-James welcomed the move.
“This is how we have to move,” she told Sunday Newsday.
Birchwood-James said cruise liners usually schedule their trips for three-year periods.
“So, if we have to see any sort of movement, we have to talk to them now and we have to ask what it is they need for them to come.
“Remember, we are at the southernmost tip and we need these cruise ships to come here so we can get some much-needed foreign exchange.”
Birchwood said it is a move in the right direction.
“But we want more of that and ships, two or three a day. That is what we will be satisfied with.”
Birchwood-James said the decision is not likely to compromise TT’s gains in fighting the pandemic.
“Well, by that time we would have developed protocols. We would have vaccinated a certain percentage of the population and we would have established some type of health protocols for people in the tourism industry, those who are dealing with the cruise ships.”
She said tourism, for many people, is about foreigners and foreign exchange.
“So, we can’t close the ports forever. People will have to come here, whether by ship, whether by yacht, or plane and enjoy what Trinidad and Tobago has to offer.”
Chief Secretary Ancil Dennis said Royal Caribbean’s decision to include TT on its 2021 itinerary “is a positive sign that our tourism product remains in demand in a key segment of the tourism market.”
Dennis, in a Whatsapp message, added: “The company would have made a careful review among all the options that are available for their itineraries and chose TT.
“That’s an endorsement of our product as well as the systems we have adopted to ensure safety as this has been paramount in travel decision-making.”
Minister of Tourism, Culture and the Arts, Randall Mitchell said on Saturday that even though there are conversations about cruise ships docking in TT, no greenlight has been given as yet.
In a statement on Friday, Mitchell said he was pleased that Royal Caribbean included TT as one of their destinations on its 2021/2022 cruise season.
On Saturday, he told Sunday Newsday said cruise lines are planning ahead and he is supportive of that.
“I don’t think they have been given the all clear by the US as yet so while I appreciate they including us, it is them planning ahead.”
In his previous statement, Mitchell said Royal Caribbean’s decision is “certainly an encouraging one.”
He was sure to point out that TT being a destination was conditional on the re-opening of the borders.
TT’s borders have been closed since last March to reduce the spread of covid19. Worldwide cruises were stopped because of the pandemic.