Ocho Rios major cancellations in both the cruise shipping and hotel sectors are threatening to derail the country’s tourism industry as the fall-out continues from the three-day all-island gas price demonstration.
Cruise line officials, fearing for the safety of their passengers and in consultation with the Jamaican government have for the past two days cancelled all trips into Montego Bay and Ocho Rios, resulting in an estimated $30 million loss to both resort towns.
The hotels, too, have been experiencing cancellation and no-shows and particularly the ones in Ocho Rios, have been hard-pressed to get their departing guests to the Sangster’s International Airport.
Both SuperClubs and Sandals Resort Chain, as a result of the continued blockage of the Priory main road, have had to utilize the Boscobel Aerodrome to get visitors to the Montego Bay airport and at great expense.
“This is something we have had to do quite frequently”, explained Joe Issa, executive vice-president of SuperClubs. “It was a situation where we had people who had to get back to their homeland and we couldn’t do it by road. Yes, it was of great cost to us, but in this line of business, the visitors’ safety and comfort should always take precedence over money.”
Mr. Issa noted that as a result of cancellation by some of the major airlines, the hotels have also had, at their expense, to keep guests longer on property.
Brendon Corrigan, vice-president of Carnival Cruise Line in a telephone conversation from his Miami office said that after consultation with Minister of Tourism Francis Tulloch, the decision was taken to cancel their ship, Celebration, on Tuesday to Ocho Rios. He said that his company was concerned that the widespread violence in the Corporate Area could spread on the streets of the resort towns and thus expose their passengers to danger.
“It was a gamble we couldn’t afford to take,” Mr. Corrigan said. “Because of what was happening in Montego Bay, we contemplated sending the ship to Ocho Rios but later decided against it.”
Mr. Corrigan said that a decision has not yet been reached on whether or not to send their flagship, Destiny, the largest cruise line in the world, to Jamaica on Friday.
“When people pay their good money to go on a cruise we have to guarantee them a good time.” He added, “As much as I am personally in love with Jamaica we have to do what is best in the interest of our passengers.”
Royal Caribbean have also cancelled their vessels and said that they were also monitoring the situation before making any future commitment.
Taj Mahal’s owner Sanju Chatani said that cruise cancellations have cost Ocho Rios millions of dollars and that everyone in the sector was seriously worried.
Source: The Gleaner