By Orville Williams
As the push to return Antigua and Barbuda’s economy to pre-pandemic levels continues, the Port Authority is engaging with cruise lines to acquire more business for the twin island nation.
The global cruise industry was one of the hardest-hit by the Covid-19 pandemic, having been forced to cease operations completely for several months and, despite being given the green light to resume a few months ago, that return has been relatively modest.
The Port Authority has recognised the need to boost the local sector and, according to Operations Manager Rawle Reynolds, one of the ways they are assisting is by negotiating with cruise lines to make Antigua a priority destination.
“There’s not a week that goes by with us not communicating strongly with some of the cruise lines, in reference to the possible changing of itineraries, basically itinerary planning.
“So, what we have done ourselves here is try to approach them in the sense of using us as a first port destination when they’re coming back to the region, as well as for homeporting or half terms, by sharing it with [for example] Barbados or other islands in which we have been looked upon quite favourably,” Reynolds told Observer.
He explained further that, based on the logistical needs of the cruise lines, Antigua’s location – along with the improvements made to the port facility – can prove very inviting.
“The buildout of the new cargo shed and everything [else] means provisions and so on will be coming to Antigua in a much faster and easier way, so they’ll be able to get these facilities. These things are quite essential for the cruise ship industry.
“For example, for a vessel to be turning around in Antigua, they will need to ensure that they can get provisions, even from local suppliers. We have met those needs, especially with this new development of the port,” Reynolds added.
General Manager of the Antigua Cruise Port, Dona Regis-Prosper, has been on a campaign to assure players in the local cruise industry that, while things have been moving slowly, there are reasons to be optimistic.
The same effort is being made by Reynolds, who noted that there are several other pull factors that should ensure Antigua and Barbuda benefits from increased business before too long.
“We are a growing destination, highly-demanded, and because of our location, [the cruise lines] are trying to build their itineraries around Antigua’s location,” Reynolds explained.
“Normally, in the ‘regular cruise industry’, Antigua is looked upon by some cruise lines as part of an eastern or sometimes southern Caribbean [route], [but] they can actually now build an itinerary surrounding Antigua.”
The global cruise industry was shut down in 2020 due to the massive impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, forcing many people in Antigua and Barbuda out of work.
Things have slowly picked up since the return, with even record numbers of vessels docked in St John’s in recent months.