By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
By YOURI KEMP
Tribune Business Reporter
A Bahamian tour and destination provider has added Disney to its roster of cruise line clients despite the industry's delayed return and wait for COVID-19 border/lockdown restrictions to ease.
Peter Rebmann, Pearl Island’s managing partner, told Tribune Business: “Pearl Island has as its biggest client, Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines (RCCL), which is the second largest cruise line in the world. But from the port calls, it is the number one cruise line here in The Bahamas.
"We also have Norwegian Cruise Line, which is the third largest cruise line in the world,. and we are really happy we signed up Disney last week. So Disney, which is number four in the world, is our newest addition.”
Mr Rebmann added: “We also have nearly 100 percent of all of the cruise lines from Europe coming to The Bahamas. We also have Costa Cruise Lines, which is the largest cruise line in Europe. We also have TUI, which is a subsidiary of RCCL, and is a German company. It’s the largest travel and leisure company in the world.”
He said it had taken three years’ worth of work to contract with the cruise lines to take their passengers to its destination. “We have a few daughter companies from Carnival also as clients," Mr Rebmann said.
Pearl Island, he revealed, was also bracing in case it had to take over paying its 30-plus staff should the National Insurance Board's (NIB) unemployment benefit scheme be exhausted by end-September, as its responsible minister, Brensil Rolle, indicated recently.
"From our side, NIB is doing a fantastic job," Mr Rebmann said. "Our employees are getting what they deserve and I am very happy about that. But Pearl Island is also again preparing funds in case NIB begins to run out of money, so we are collecting money from friends of mine and, hopefully, NIB can continue its work, but if not we are prepared to pay our own employees again out of our own pockets.”
Describing The Bahamas' tourism shutdown as a “disaster” and “devastating”, Mr Rebmann said he disagrees with persons saying that this nation should look to other industries as its main economic driver. He said: “The Bahamas has the perfect location and travel will never, ever end. It will come back, and it will always be our main business. It would be silly to try to go into other businesses where the country has zero experience.”
Mr Rebmann said The Bahamas will probably not see any cruise ship visitors until Christmas 2020, but the timing depends on how quickly this nation and the US get COVID-19 under control, as well as the restrictions that the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) impose on the sector. “There is nothing you can do at this time. This is a waiting game and a very costly waiting game,” he added.