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Cruise sector not expecting decline in business

Despite concerns from a regional tourism organization about the potential loss of cruise business in the Caribbean, a local official is saying that there are no major concerns about The Bahamas losing cruise business.

Director of Cruise Development in the Ministry of Tourism Carla Stuart toldGuardian Businessyesterday that the sector will be fully prepared to maintain its consistency.

“There has been an ongoing trend where you would see stronger numbers during the winter months, and during the summer months you see other ships go to Alaska and Europe,”Stuart said.”Our only concern is that cruise demand is for other areas. But the season has still been very busy for us and we have a number of ships that came here.”

Stuart’s comments come after the Caribbean Tourism Organization(CTO)expressed concerns about the loss of cruise business from the southern Caribbean after Royal Caribbean International announced that it will reposition its Serenade of the Seas vessel to Europe in the summer of 2012. The move is being made due to the rise in traffic during the summer months to that destination, mainly because the warmer climate during that time.

Secretary General of the CTO Hugh Riley said there is a noticeable difference in visitors during the winter and summer months, acknowledging that strategies must be developed.

“We recognize that the strong comparative advantage that we have in the Caribbean in the winter months changes in the summer,”Riley said.

Stuart mentioned that it’s common for some cruise lines to modify their itineraries during that period.

“There’s always concern during the summer months because the ships that usually call during the winter go elsewhere in the summer,”she said. We are still grateful for the business we have over the summer months to sustain us, but we must continue to improve our products so we don’t miss any opportunities. The market is entirely competitive and we always have to remain one step ahead.”

Stuart added that cruise passenger arrivals for the year have been on pace with the previous year’s figures for the first three months of the year, and the sector isn’t expecting a decline for the remainder of the year.

For the region, cruise passenger arrivals grew by six per cent in 2010, continuing the rapid growth experienced over the past 40 years, with the numbers climbing from just over one million cruise visits in 1970 to over 20 million last year.

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