By Gerry Barker
“Barbados is open for business.”
That was the message delivered by a delegation from the Caribbean island nation, led by its Minister of Tourism and International Transport, Ian Gooding-Edghill at the recently-concluded Seatrade Cruise Global conference in Fort Lauderdale.
Since pandemic protocols were lifted last September, Gooding-Edghill noted cruise numbers are up 86 percent, “a recovery rate that tells the story,” adding that during the next winter season that starts in November, “we are forecasting a full recovery.”
During the pandemic, when most of the world was locked down, Barbados played an important role for the cruise lines by allowing crew and guests to disembark and travel to the airport in a major repatriation effort. “Barbados stood tall in the humanitarian effort to get people back to their families,” said Gooding-Edghill.
Along with the recovery, he said Barbados is moving forward with the cruise industry on several fronts, including:
— Inaugural cruise ship visits. Last November, Barbados welcomed the new Ritz Carlton Yacht Evrima, which is making the island its homeport for the current winter season. This year, they have 11 more inaugural visits scheduled.
— In March, Barbados had the honor of hosting the christening and naming of P&O’s new ship, Arvia, with a capacity of 5,200 passengers. “It was the first time a ship has been named and christened in Barbados, as well as the Caribbean,” Gooding-Edghill said. “Seeing the Arvia was one of the most beautiful sights you could ever wish for,” he said.
The ceremony, broadcast worldwide on YouTube, also featured the world’s largest bottle of rum — 15 liters of Mount Gay Black Barrel — for the christening instead of the customary champagne, appropriate since the island is world-renowned for its rum.
— For the coming winter season, Gooding-Edghill is forecasting a passenger count of close to 700,000, which would match 2019.
— Port improvements. Barbados is investing $100 million ($50 million U.S.) in port improvements, including construction of the new Berth 6 and expanded terminal facilities that will expand capacity for both cruise and cargo ships, due to be completed by early 2024. “It will allow us to attract even more cruise ships,” said Gooding-Edghill.
Not only is Barbados open for business, but also the “Welcome” sign is clearly out.