Long stay visitors who check in at hotels spend the bulk of the money earned from tourism in Jamaica. But cruise ship visitors are vital to the industry, supporting thousands of jobs, and visiting many attractions during the few hours they are in the country before sailing on elsewhere. Joey Issa, manager of Couples the all-inclusive Superclubs hotel, Tower Isle argues that there is no point in the tourism industry being divided over the value of cruise shipping to Jamaica. Rather, the country should give cruise ship passengers such a welcome that they’d be good marketers of Jamaica’s tourism. Following is the test of a speech, in which he put this position to the Boscobel Citizen’s Association, St. Mary recently.
There is one short though I would like to instil in you today. It concerns our Tourist Industry with a focus on Cruise Shipping. It affects each and every one of our livelihoods in some way or another.
Over the years many people have either supported or criticized cruise ships depending on their self-interest. On the one hand, some hoteliers feel that their business and the country suffers due to unfair competition and harp on the fact that the average cruise ship passenger’s expenditure is minimal. They say that cruise ships pay little or no import duties, taxes etc. On the other hand the various ports of call shop owners, taxi drivers, restaurateurs etc. are livid at this kind of hotel talk. They all want to make a honest living and feel that the hoteliers already slighted them by going all-inclusive and cutting them out and now they want to go a step further and cut their new source of wealth.
This cuts at the heart of one of our nation’s predicaments. We Jamaicans must learn to work together. United we stand, divided we fall. Let me explain further. Cruise ships carry roughly half a million tourists to Jamaica annually. They are potential repeat guests to our Island. However, a number of these cruise ship visitors are turned off Jamaica after their visit here. Their reception in comparison to other destinations in terms of harassment, crime, port conditions and so on could be better.
That is not to say tremendous improvements have not been made. They have, but we can still go a step further.
While this happens, hoteliers on their sales trips abroad, many times face a barrage of complaints on Jamaica as a destination. These complaints more often than not are centred around our ports of call. The first reaction of many of the hoteliers is to attack the cruise ship industry. I’m not sure if the hoteliers realise that these cruise ship passengers are another possible source of repeat visitors who we must impress.
We in the tourism industry should be talking together to see how we can as a nation put on a spectacular Jamaican show at our ports. After we finish with these tourists they must dream of the day when they will return. The visual impact we leave with them must last a lifetime.
As a nation we will save foreign exchange by doing this. The hoteliers spend a fortune on expensive sales trips to North America, Europe, the Far East and Latin American. We have a potential bonanza right under our nose and we fail to see it. If we convince these cruise ship visitors how great our island is, when they go back home they will tell all their friends to come to Jamaica. It is simply economical marketing and good public relations.
Source: The Observer