By YOURI KEMP
Tribune Business Reporter
A Bahamian destination and tour provider yesterday said a cruise industry shutdown now would have a greater impact than two years ago at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Peter Rebmann, Pearl Island’s managing partner, told Tribune Business: “We have concern seeing the rising numbers of American cases that it comes to a point where the cruise line industry will again be on hold.
“Right now I think everybody, from governments down to the cruise ships, everybody understands what a disaster that would be and it would potentially threaten the existence of one or more cruise lines.
“We understand that the ships are only 40 percent to 50 percent occupied,” he added. “That means their revenue stream is on a very low budget, too, and there are no big reserves like it was two years ago.
“They already are financed up to their chin. The debt they put on in the last two years is tremendous, so a stop in this industry now would have a much bigger consequences than it did two years ago.”
Mr Rebmann said the current volume of cruise ships arriving at the Nassau Cruise Port (NCP) is “not a big help” for his business because most lines are reverting back to “bubble tours” for their passengers due to the surge in Omicron variant-linked cases.
So-called “bubble tours” are seen as placing many tour and ground transportation operators at a disadvantage because the cruise lines dictate where their passengers go, and under what circumstances, in a bid to mitigate against COVID transmission. Bahamian companies have little room for negotiation with the cruise companies due to these protocols.
Mr Rebmann added: “That means they do not want any other cruise ship guests from other companies besides them. That means if there are five ships in Nassau, most likely I can only get one ship.”
While larger tour operators can spread their guests out over their activities, Pearl Island does not have that luxury. While there has yet to be any sign of a cruise industry shutdown to mirror that which took place in March 2020, lasting until early summer 2021, several vessels have now either been turned away or not called in The Bahamas due to onboard infections and changed travel protocols.