Downtown Nassau pictured during the COVID-19 lockdown.
By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
The Downtown Nassau Partnership's (DNP) co-chair has predicted Bay Street's revival will take "longer than anticipated" given its near-total reliance on a cruise industry whose return is further delayed.
Charles Klonaris, telling Tribune Business that the survival prospects for cruise-dependent merchants and other businesses were becoming "less and less" with every month that the industry's comeback is postponed, said downtown Nassau was paying the price for "the risky business" of becoming reliant on just one sector.
"It's going to drag and will take longer than anticipated," he added of the area's COVID-19 recovery. "But it will come back. I don't see it until at least 2022. Hopefully we will see some relief by the 2021 third quarter, or fourth quarter, but by winter season 2022 if all goes well with the vaccine and people become comfortable to travel.... That's the most optimistic view of the tourism industry.
"I think the process will take longer than anticipated even though there are good signs like the cruise port, the US Embassy and The Pointe."
Mr Klonaris spoke out after Nassau Cruise Port slashed its 2021 arrival estimates by more than one million passengers, or 42.3 percent, due to Carnival and its affiliates delaying their return beyond end-March.
Michael Maura, its chief executive, told Tribune Business that in a worst-case scenario cruise arrivals for this year could possibly fall by 1.5m compared to initial projections as the uncertainty created by COVID-19's economic and health devastation continues to ravage the cruise industry.
Acknowledging the short-term blow from Carnival and its affiliates electing to delay their return beyond the 2021 first quarter, Mr Maura told this newspaper: "In answer to your question, had we anticipated revenue streams at some point in the first quarter? Yes.
"For us, back in the early second quarter of 2020, we had anticipated in 2021 that we would handle approximately 2.6m passengers. The protracted journey that the cruise industry has been on in terms of resuming cruise travel, principally from North America, has and will impact that forecast.
"I would say that we would end up some place between 1m and 1.5m, on the low end at 1m, and more likely at 1.5m, but it really does depend on the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) requirements."
A decline to 1m would represent a 61.5 percent drop compared to initial projections, but a fall to 1.5m would be down just 42.3 percent. Some observers will likely consider these estimates still too optimistic given the pandemic's devastating effects.
The cruise lines are still grappling with the COVID-19 prevention and mitigation protocols imposed upon them by the US health authority, although a designated CDC official is now working with each company to help them come into compliance.
However, Carnival confirmed last week that it will not resume sailing from US ports by the end of March, while its affiliates, Princess Cruises and Holland America, have postponed their returns through May 14 and April 30, respectively. This means one of the world's two largest cruise lines, and its subsidiaries, will miss a first quarter that is traditionally the peak in the sector's calendar.
This also only adds to the misery facing Bay Street merchants and other downtown Nassau businesses that have traditionally relied on cruise ships for the bulk of their customers, including restaurants, as well as the likes of tour operators, taxi drivers, straw vendors, hair braiders and others that all rely upon the sector their livelihoods.
Private island employees will be similarly impacted, and the survival prospects for cruise industry-reliant businesses are becoming bleaker with every month it fails to return, given that it will have been away for a full year since last March's shutdown