By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
THE Government is planning to create an "LPIA experience" at Nassau's major cruise port, with the Minister of Tourism yesterday describing the major lines as "receptive" to the upgrade.
Dionisio D'Aguilar, having recently returned from the Seatrade Cruise Global conference, told Tribune Business that Prince George Wharf must be enhanced in preparation for the cruise industry "boom". Mr D'Aguilar, who was accompanied by Frankie Campbell, minister of transport, in Fort Lauderdale said he had met with the likes of Disney Cruise Line, Carnival, Norwegian, Royal Caribbean and MSC Cruises. "I explained that the Government is looking to change the entire experience of the port," he said. "I identified that the Port of Nassau is currently being run by two government silos; the tourism silo which deals with the customer's experience, and the transport silo that deals with the mechanics of operating the Port.
"What became very clear from that conference is that the cruise industry is booming. It is growing by double digit percentages every year. There are in excess of 90 cruise ships currently under construction, and every cruise ship that is in the market runs around 100 per cent.
"This industry is growing by leaps and bounds, and for the Port of Nassau to remain on the cutting edge and be prepared for this growth we have to look at our maritime infrastructure, which is woefully inadequate. The cruise ships complain about it every day. The customer experience also is not what it should be. The cruise lines complain about it all the time. The customer experience is something we are not proud of."
The Tourism Minister said the the cruise lines were informed of plans to introduce an "LPIA experience" at the Port of Nassau - a reference to the upgrades seen at Lynden Pindling International Airport (LPIA) under the Nassau Airport Development Company (NAD).
"They were all extremely receptive to it. They were all very thankful that we advised them of what we were thinking. We felt it was critical that we consult with the major stakeholders of the Port and get their buy-in. What was clearly evident is that they are very much on board," Mr D'Aguilar said.
He added that, similar to LPIA, the port would have a single operator to manage it, with a facility charge likely to cover operating and maintenance costs.
"That Port needs a transformation, much in the way the Nassau International Airport was transformed. I think the cruise lines were impressed that someone was stepping forward to tackle this problem," Mr D'Aguilar said.
He added that addressing the 'product issue' would help to increase cruise passenger spend, and said: "Too many visitors who come by cruise are bored by Nassau, and see no reason to come off the ship. The passengers that do come off the ship are back on by 1pm. That's a product issue. That's a product issue and we are going to address that."