Vendors, taxi operators welcome reported outcome of Carnival-GOAB talks

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Key stakeholders in the cruise tourism industry have breathed a collective sigh of relief over recent reports that Carnival Cruise Lines will continue its scheduled calls to Antigua.

After three weeks of negotiations, Carnival Cruise Lines and the government have reportedly agreed to an arrangement that provides “a foundation for Carnival [Cruise Lines] to continue operations in Antigua”.

According to a press release issued by the Antigua and Barbuda Consul General’s Office in Miami, while “some calls were rescheduled, other calls considered for cancellation will call as planned”.

OBSERVER media spoke to vendors and a taxi driver who said they were pleased with this announcement.

According to the secretary of the St. John’s Taxi Association, Leroy John-Baptiste, “We [taxi drivers] are delighted at news that Carnival [Cruise Lines] will be coming to the port; this bodes well for the tourism business.”

The vendors also said they were happy that the cruise ship company was continuing its calls to the island as their businesses depend heavily on the income generated by Carnival.

“Carnival Cruise Lines has been one of the ships that vendors can depend on and I hope we can maintain [the agreement],” one female vendor said.

“Carnival Cruise Lines has always been important to vendors and Antigua generally and we were originally saddened that they were pulling out.  So we are welcoming the news that they will be coming back to Antigua.”

Moreover, the press release stated that both parties will continue dialogue over the prospect of increasing summer calls to the island.

This was pleasing news for vendors and taxi drivers, who were facing the prospect of a bleak summer season.

John-Baptiste said the taxi association was anxious to hear the result of the talks regarding cruise calls during the summer.

“We are more interested in the off-season as the season speaks for itself. The off-season is where the challenges [are] and we wait for those further discussions to take place and hear what is going to happen,” he said, adding, “[the off-season discussions] is critical as, on average, we only receive two to three ships coming in monthly, and July only sees one ship coming in. We hope to see at least six or seven ships in the off-season [so] we can make our necessary commitments.”

The vendors also urged the government to ensure that discussions regarding summer calls bear fruit.

“I hope we can get more ships during the summer, because the schedule for this summer is bad with barely any ships coming in,” one vendor said. Another added: “The government needs to do something to boost summer calls. We have expenses to pay and this slow season is killing us.”

However, one detail that was not mentioned in the press release was what caused the about face by Carnival Cruise Lines.

However, John-Baptiste believes the entire situation surrounding Carnival was a power play by the company.

“We looked at the whole scenario as a power play. Carnival was not pleased with something and decided to flex their muscles. If you look at the trend, one day they began to pull out a certain number of ships, did not get their way, and thus began to pull more ships out of Antigua. The government realized that they could not sustain that pressure and had to go to the negotiating table,” he said.

The press release also stated that berth reservations and scheduling for Carnival will be made directly with the government or indirectly through a government-appointed agent.

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