This past season 2008/2009 has seen some significant first’s for Barbados as a homeport destination. Barbados can now record being a homeport for one of the largest ships in the World — P&O’s Ventura. This operation is performed over two days with 14 charter flights and 6,600 passengers being transferred during the operation. Admittedly this took two years of planning and precision execution from Foster & Ince staff with the unswerving support from the Barbados Port, GAIA, Customs, immigration, valued transport providers and so many other supporting companies and agencies.Â Also during this past season, Foster & Ince sub-chartered the Caribbean Victory and put on board the ship 3,100 passengers. This was a full ‘check in’ and debarkation with Customs procedure at the port. We will/should continue to build on the momentum of this past season and this is positioning the country well for the future in the global Homeporting arena.
Unfortunately, this upcoming season,Â we will notice the disappearance of one of the Ocean Village ships as well as Island cruise. This in no way is a reflection of how Barbados performed but a result of global repositioning and restructuring of two large International companies. Australia will be the recipient of the Ocean Village ship — as cruise demand and yields in that market are on the rise — and the Island Star ship was a result of First Choice and Royal Caribbean disbanding a joint venture business partnership that lasted about 5 years. Unfortunately we will lose the second Ocean Village ship in 2010/2011 season. We have also lost the year round ship, Ocean Dream, from Pullmantur for some unfortunate reasons.
The homeporting business continues to have economic benefit tentacles that reach far and wide into the Barbados business cycle. The range of these financial benefits is extensive and in future correspondence I will touch on these.
As we look into 2009/2010 cruise season for homeporting we will miss these three ships mentioned above very badly. This is reducing our homeport numbers by some 35% and this will have a significant impact on this subsector. We will however still have some of the usual ships along with a new ship from P&O — Artemis. Foster & Ince continues to search for new vessels and lines to replace this loss.
There has been some renewed interest in Barbados for this sector for the future.
The number of transit ships will also be affected by the reduced numbers from the Ocean village, Ocean Dream and the Island Star as these ships had vibrant land programs as well. The good news is that this loss has been supported by some additional calls from a few of the other lines. We have had some disappointments with some of the attractions closing and some today are borderline and will probably review continuing in the weeks/months to come. This continues to be a worry for the tour planners. Foster & Ince is working with as many of the attractions as possible to ensure that as an industry we continue to grow and thrive.
Of concern is that there are no ‘known’ new attractions on the cards for the future. Going forward we probably need a few very brave entrepreneurs to look at some new and exciting ‘profitable’ ventures. We do anticipate that for the upcoming season there will be a softened demand for tours — both organized and non-organized tours. Our challenge going forward is to get the guests off the ships and into the wider economy.
Of special note is the loss of the Pullmantur ship which was one of our ‘Summer ships’. Foster & Ince is diligently working on having a replacement to fill this void in the future.
It would be remiss of me not to touch on H1N1 and the cruise Industry. I am absolutely amazed by the continued focus and attention that this topic seems to be still having in Barbados. The cruise Industry continues to follow very strict protocols and adhere to them carefully. Having just travelled ( by air)Â to the UK, Germany and then back to the UK -Â H1N1 is not on the immediate radar of these countries and there were NO signs, flyers, handouts, observers, masks or anything at all on the topic — until you get to Barbados.
In the immediate future Barbados cruise wise looks strong — certainly for the next 3 years. We have many firm bookings of ships who are committed to Barbados well into 2012.
The World however is a changing place and we must never be complacent. I do hope that as a country and proud people that we appreciate every cruise line, guest andÂ crew member that spend time on our stunning Island and enjoy our many offerings.
Written by Martin Ince, Managing Director of Foster & Ince Cruise Services Inc. (October 2009)