There were smiles all around at the sight of the five cruise vessels docked in the St Johns Harbour this past Wednesday. Seemed, our cruise tourism industry was bouncing back in a big way. But alas! Wait! Not so fast! Those smiles soon faded to scowls. The many vessels in the harbour were hardly full, some were at as little as fifty percent capacity on account of reduced travel occasioned by the coronavirus pandemic. And what is more, the passengers, even as they were walking around St John’s and ‘oohing’ and ‘ahhhing’ at the sights and sounds, were not spending any money. As reported in this past Thursday’s DAILY OBSERVER, one vendor at the pier reported making one solitary sale all day, notwithstanding the presence of the five vessels. It was the lament of most of the vendors, taxi drivers and business owners who ply their trade at the quays – the visitors are being tight-fisted.
Of course, we believe that those who depend on cruise tourism for a living, will have to come up with new and innovative ways to relieve the tourists of their monies, or they will simply have to move on to more lucrative engagements, especially in light of what could be the new reality – penny-pinching tourists.
To be sure, this is where the Economic Recovery Commission (ERC) could have proven its worth. That Commission was tasked with the responsibility of coming up with new ideas as to how some of us affected by the Covid downturn could switch employment opportunities. As its name suggests, this committee, “comprised of fifteen of the smartest men and women in Antigua and Barbuda,”was supposed to provide the blueprint for our way out of this economic mess. Turns out, not one jot or title of what these geniuses recommended has been put into place, never mind taken seriously. Apparently, it was much ado about nothing – the ERC! Quite sad! So much was expected of them, and they produced so precious little.
Not surprisingly, several sitting Members of Parliament (MPs) were named as heads of the various sub-committees of the ERC, and in the minds of many political observers, those bland and unimaginative appointments were the beginning of the end for the ERC. These sitting MP’s do not have an independent, trail-blazing thought in their heads. Much like Rip Van Winkle, they went to sleep during the pandemic, and they are only now awakening from their slumber, with no new initiatives, no bright ideas. They are an uncharismatic and uninspiring lot. We could cite their names, but to what end? You know who they are.
So here we are, emerging from an extensive lockdown, with no overarching vison to help small entrepreneurs and small emerging businesses. No grand plan of action. Cruise vessels are docking at the port, but the visitors aren’t spending any money. Worse yet, we understand that some of the ships coming to Antigua are ships that have been turned away from other Caribbean ports, on account of Covid-19 outbreaks aboard them. In essence, these vessels are Trojan horses of sorts, and we are like the people of Troy who naively invite into our ports those who could eventually harm us. Sadly, we have no choice. We are desperate! Think, “Whosoever will may come,”never mind their coronavirus circumstances.
If we are satisfied with the leadership that we have seen here in our fair State these past few years, then we are a people with very low expectations. But we are not! True, we are a longsuffering people, given to extreme forbearance, but we will hardly abide mediocrity and downright rudeness and abuse from our leaders forever. We are tired of those in high places. We are ready to effect a change. O, haste that day!
We have been waiting for the past eight years for our ship (all puns intended) to come in, and much like the cruise ships that have been entering our port recently, it is half-full when it berths. Instead of the Oasis of the Seas, we are being given very small and ordinary cruise vessels. Of course, the turning basin for our fifth pier cannot accommodate the Oasis of the Seas, on account of the large treacherous rocks that lie beneath the water’s surface. Sigh! . . . So much has been promised, and so very little has been delivered.
We invite you to visit www.antiguaobserver.com and give us your feedback on our opinions.