ST. JOHN’S, Antigua, Mar 13, CMC – The Antigua and Barbuda government says it “condemns unequivocally a misleading and scare-mongering statement” made by the President of the Antigua and Barbuda Cruise Tourism Association (ABCTA), Nathan Dundas, that the island could lose a significant amount of money as a result of the decision by the Florida-based Carnival Cruise Lines to cancel several schedule calls.
Health and Investment Minister, Henry Charles “Max” Fernandez, in a statement issued on Tuesday night, said that the statement by Dundas “serves the purposes of interested parties, other than the people of Antigua and Barbuda”.
“The deceptive statement has been quoted by sections of the traditional and social media and distributed widely on Whatsapp,” Fernandez said.
Dundas had said that the cruise line did not give a reason for the cancellation, adding “so all four ships booked commencing next season November 2019 to 2020 – Breeze, Magic, Legend and Pride will be going to other ports”.
“I am afraid that we may see more cancellations and it is indeed cause for concern as these cancellations will impact everyone’s business, from store owners to tour operators, and bars and restaurants etc.”
He said the ships were expected to bring in an estimated 250,000 tourists to the island.
But Fernandez said that Dundas had failed to reveal in his statement that “normally Carnival Cruise Lines make only three or four calls to Antigua and Barbuda annually”.
“The one exception to this pattern was the 2017-18 winter season when hurricanes decimated other destinations, causing Carnival to take advantage of Antigua’s fully functioning port.”
Fernandez said that the total number of passengers that could be affected by these cancellations is approximately 12,200, noting “this is a relatively small number of the total cruise passengers that visit our country annually”.
“Therefore, while we regret any loss of business, however, small in percentage terms, we do not anticipate any significant adverse impact on the stakeholders in our economy. It is significant that, at no time, did Mr. Dundas contact the Ministry, the Port Authority or the Tourism Authority prior to his statement,’ Fernandez added.
He said in choosing to issue his statement publicly, “for reasons best known to himself, Mr. Dundas caused unnecessary fear among cruise stakeholders, and the general public which was obviously his intention, particularly by his personal and unsubstantiated claim that he expects to see “more cancellations going forward”.
“Nonetheless, the Ministry of Tourism makes it clear that we value highly our long-standing and mutually-beneficial partnership with Carnival Cruise Lines, and we will do all in our power to enhance it. We are seeking sustainable cruise tourism partnerships for the empowerment of all, not just for the benefit of a few,” he added.