Why the cruise lines should not be allowed to manage our cruise port

Dear Editor,

I read in the newspaper today that the request for proposal (RFP) period for the redevelopment and management of Prince George Wharf ends this Friday, December 7. While I am very pleased that this process seems to finally be moving along, I am troubled by rumors that several cruise lines aim to participate in this process. Clearly, it would be a direct conflict of interest for the cruise lines to be allowed to manage Prince George Wharf. There are no two ways about it.

I have worked in the tourism industry for a very long time, but could never have imagined that this kind of insanity would even be proposed. There are so many reasons why this would be bad for The Bahamas. What’s worse, it is also rumored that a group of Bahamians or Bahamian companies might be willing to “sell us out” by partnering with the cruise lines to try to make this happen. Why would any Bahamian who truly cares about the future of our country be willing to betray our nation by acting as the front man for these insensitive cruise companies while they are pulling the strings behind the scenes? After almost 200 years since the abolition of slavery, some of us are still willing to sell each other out in the name of the almighty dollar. What a shame.

History has shown repeatedly, as we all know, that the cruise lines are not our partners. They never truly have been. They take advantage of our resources to make as much money as possible. They are always only focused on the bottom line. This antiquated age of economic colonialism by foreign pirates, whose goal is to keep us under their thumbs, picking peas for crumbs, must come to an end. How can we collaborate with companies that would prefer for us to remain a sleepy fishing village as the world advances around us, instead of the bustling, innovative and prosperous nation that we aspire to be? Bahamians need to be true partners in this effort, not simply partners on paper to help the deal go through.

Let’s look at the facts:

Partners don’t threaten to take bread out of your mouth

The main motivation for them to bring their ships to The Bahamas is to make as much money as possible. We understand this is a capitalist society, but when they threaten to move their ships elsewhere and punish the people of The Bahamas because things don’t go their way, their true colors come shining through. Just watch what happens when a government in the Caribbean announces an increase of a few cents in their head tax. Swarms of cruise line people and their lobbyists descend on the unfortunate island people to bully and threaten them. One of their favorite tactics is to get local people like taxi drivers and shop owners to do their dirty work by telling them they will pull their ships out if there are any increase in fees. The locals turn on the government, fearing that their livelihoods are at stake, pressuring them to cancel any increase. What kind of ‘partner’ is this? Trading on the fears of hard-working people so they can pocket billions more. Not in my Bahamas!!

Head tax confusion

Don’t be fooled about their cries about head taxes. They love to suggest that the head taxes here, at $18 per passenger, are too expensive. What they don’t tell you is that this amount is the total paid for three ports – Nassau, Freeport and their private island. The passengers are only paying a measly $6 per port. They pass all the fees – concession fees, airport surcharge, fuel surcharge, head tax, port charges, tugboat fees – directly to the passenger under the name of “government and taxes”. And after all of this, can you believe that successive governments were still giving them money back through rebates and incentives! Thank goodness the government finally stopped that foolishness.

They are building 10-story cruise ships with an endless number of amenities to keep passengers on-board so that they never get off the ship when in port. To add insult to injury, they are reportedly also telling passengers which stores to visit so that they don’t patronize Bahamian businesses, but give their money to stores that the cruise ships are said to have interests in downtown!

Commitment to destinations

There is a lot of big talk by the cruise lines about their commitment to destinations. The truth is if they can earn a few more dollars by moving ships to Europe or Alaska, they will do it! They will go where the money is. That’s why we have fewer ships during the summer.

They come here giving speeches about working with The Bahamas in a ‘non-threatening’ way. Non-threatening is not the same as being supportive. If they really cared about our destination or the experiences that their passengers have here, they would have helped us to improve downtown a long time ago. What they really want to do is control the port so that they can keep other cruise lines away so that they have less competition!

Yes, we want them to keep bringing ships and passengers, but not at any price. We’re finally at a point where we’re able to truly negotiate on behalf of the Bahamian people. We have an opportunity to create the kind of cruise port infrastructure, the kind of downtown core and the kind of revitalized destination in Nassau that so many of us have been beating our gums about on radio talk shows, Facebook, and in chat groups for years. This port can finally be the catalyst to design the future that we all envision and deserve, but it must be developed and managed in partnership with Bahamians. Let’s give our people real hope for a better future. The choice is ours.

– A Tru-Tru Bahamian

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