Opposition parties label Carnival Cruise report ‘sad’; fearful of more pull-outs

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Members of two opposition parties, the United Progressive Party (UPP) and the Democratic National Alliance (DNA) were quick to respond to reports that Carnival Cruise Lines was withdrawing four of its ships from its schedule of calls to Antigua and Barbuda.
Yesterday, OBSERVER spoke with UPP political leader Harold Lovell who said it was time for the Prime Minister to terminate the deal.
“This is bad news for Antigua and Barbuda and reinforces the view that this was always a disastrous deal,” Lovell said, adding that, “The government was warned that the proposal by Global Ports makes no sense regarding the head tax increases they were proposing.”
Lovell feared that the decision by Carnival Cruise Lines will lead to other cruise lines abandoning the Antiguan and Barbudan route.
“We have now heard that one cruise line has decided to divert its ships from Antigua and Barbuda and my fear is that other cruise lines would do likewise,” Lovell said.
Meanwhile, DNA founding member Anthony Stuart described the news as disturbing.
“This is a sad development in the country and the cruise tourism product is in crisis. Many poor and vulnerable stakeholders in the industry will feel much of the pain from this fallout in the cruise tourism sector,” Stuart said.
Stuart said both the UPP and the current Gaston Browne administration were at fault for Carnival Cruise Lines’ decision.
“There will be much finger-pointing for the cancellation of the ships, but the government must bear the brunt of the blame for the lack of wholesale consultation with stakeholders, including the cruise lines, the Antigua and Barbuda Cruise Tourism Association and its president, Nathan Dundas, the taxi association and the St. John’s Development Corporation, before signing off on the agreement,” he said.
“The leadership of the UPP must share some blame in breaking with the tradition of the UPP to not protest at the heart of economic activity of St. John’s.”
This was also echoed by the government’s chief of staff, Lionel ‘Max’ Hurst, on ZDK radio station.
“The loss of any vessel would cause a certain amount of pain to persons, but maybe it came from what we saw on last week Thursday when four cruise ships were in port and the UPP staged a picket at Heritage Quay,” Hurst said.
However, Lovell quickly dismissed those claims, stating that “it is the nonsensical agreement that caused the pullout of Carnival and is likely to cause the pullout of other cruise lines”.
Referring to the February 14th 2019 letter from the Florida Caribbean Cruise Association to the Prime Minister, warning him about the implications of the Global Ports Agreement, Lovell said: “The Prime Minister and the Minister of Tourism were warned of the possible consequences of pursuing the deal. All of us are going to suffer and it is going to be the fault of the government.”
Stuart, on the other the hand, said: “This is a very telling letter because it indicates that the Prime Minister consulted no one. It is also echoing the sentiments of persons like Nathan Dundas and myself, where we warned the government of the difficulties that the government would have with the head tax because we were there with Michele Paige and the Florida Caribbean Cruise Association.”
Stuart added that the government must take the letter seriously as cruise ships have other options.
If the government does not reconsider the deal and restart the discussion with key stakeholders, he added, the DNA will be more than willing to hold a town hall meeting to discuss the issue.
Meanwhile, the UPP said it will continue to hold its whistle-stop to bring awareness to the public about the recent developments.
OBSERVER media has reached out to Prime Minister Browne and Tourism Minister, Fernandez about the recent developments, however at the time of this reporting, the Prime Minister said he was not ready to give an official statement, the Tourism Minister released a statement.

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