Wed | Feb 26, 2020

Wykeham McNeill | Let the cruise shipping numbers speak

Published:Sunday | January 5, 2020 | 12:28 AM

Beware of the half-truth! You may have got hold of the wrong half. Anyone listening to pronouncements made recently by the Ministry of Tourism would say that Jamaica is doing phenomenally well in cruise shipping. This is not so.

The Government needs to speak the truth about what is happening in the sector.

Most people would be surprised to discover that cruise arrivals for 2019 are projected to be lower than they were in 2015 (1,568,702) and 2019 (projected at 1.5 million).

Following a bump in arrivals in 2017 due to hurricanes in the eastern Caribbean, our cruise arrivals have recorded a decline of nearly half a million passengers to Jamaica this year (2017 – 1,923,274 and 2019 projected at 1.5 million).

While the port of Ocho Rios has held its own, Falmouth has fallen from over 750,000 passengers in 2015 to 490,000 passengers this year, a nearly 30 per cent drop. However, it would not be fair to say that this decline is entirely the fault of the Ministry of Tourism.

Since 2017, there has been a 25 per cent decline in arrivals. Under the Port Authority, where the cruise shipping sector was located, arrivals had risen by nearly 70 per cent, or 700,000 passengers, in the last decade from 1,179,204 in 2007 to 1,923,274 in 2017. (Albeit, 2017 was an abnormal year).

There are several reasons we are now having challenges with cruise shipping. Some are external, like Cayman, our partner on the western route, which doesn’t currently have a port and relies on offshore tendering, which has a limiting effect on the size of vessels and number of passengers they are able to accommodate. And other reasons are internal, such as problems with harassment of our visitors and the lack of enhancement of our ports.

NUMBERS MATTER

However, a reason why half-truths can be most dangerous is that when the businesses that rely on cruise shipping for their livelihoods such as craft traders and the transport sector are crying out, they are largely ignored by the media and wider society, who have bought into the fact that cruise shipping is booming and “Jamaica No Problem.”

To this end, I have to call out the Jamaica Information Service, who, without any fact checking, published figures that have no basis in any reality. In one article, both erroneous figures for arrivals to Falmouth (2000 in 2018) and cruise arrivals to Jamaica at 1.2 million were given. They have a responsibility to the people of Jamaica to do more than publish political PR.

I am, therefore, urging the government to reassign cruise shipping to the Port Authority, which has demonstrated the capacity to successfully manage this vital sector and that the Ministry of Tourism put renewed energy into resolving the local issues and transforming our ports into the best in the world so that the cruise lines are compelled to come in their droves to Jamaica.

The people of Jamaica are calling out for more nation building and less public relations for the New year.

Again, the problem with half -truths is that you don’t know which half to believe. This is why real numbers matter.

 

- Dr Wykeham McNeill is Shadow minister of tourism and member of Parliament for Western Westmoreland. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com