Prime Minister Gaston Browne has accused the Florida Caribbean Cruise Association (FCCA) of exploiting the Caribbean.
According to its website, the FCCA is a not-for-profit trade organisation composed of 19 member cruise lines operating nearly 200 vessels in Floridian, Caribbean and Latin American waters.
The association is mandated to hold discussions with partner destinations on tourism development, ports, safety, security and other cruise industry issues.
However, the Prime Minister accused the association of exploiting Caribbean countries for lower visitor tax rates.
“The reality is that the FCCA is literally exploiting the Caribbean. So you will charge, for example, thousands of dollars for your visitors to the Caribbean – and I know that the cruise business is capital intensive – but when you are giving these countries five or six dollars per head this cannot cover the capital costs for the infrastructure,” Browne said, pointing to Heritage Quay as an example of heavy infrastructure cost.
“If the Italian government had not written off . . . 90 percent of the loan for Heritage Quay, we would still be paying off the loan for Heritage Quay,” he said.
Browne argued that the only way for small countries like Antigua to fight the FCCA is to form a regional port facility.
“Unless the entire Caribbean comes together and forms a regional port facility and mandate that [the Cruise Associations] pay more, we will continue to end up in problems and have to subsidise that sector,” he said, adding that such a proposition was unlikely to succeed.