EDITOR, The Tribune.
Concerning the $200m development of the Carnival Cruise Port at Sharp Rock, East Grand Bahama, what will become of Freeport Harbour once this project is completed?
The tourism element at Freeport Harbour relies heavily on Carnival Cruise, which probably accounts for over 80 percent of the cruise ships that call in at the harbour. Bahamians have expressed concerns about the Royal Caribbean Paradise Island project and its potential impact on Bay Street and mainline New Providence from a financial perspective.
Royal Caribbean passengers will have no reason to visit Bay Street once they would have visited the Paradise Island port. The situation at the Freeport Harbour will be no exception.
Freeport Harbour, with its tour bus companies, hundreds of taxi drivers, restaurants and vendors will all be impacted negatively by the new Carnival Cruise port, once Carnival shifts its attention to East Grand Bahama.
I have yet to hear of any contingency plans by the Grand Bahama Port Authority and Hutchinson Whampoa that would mitigate the loss of thousands of tourists in the harbour area. Without Carnival, Freeport Harbour will become a virtual ghost town. The only real solution to this impending economic disaster for tour bus operators, taxi drivers and vendors would be for the ownership of the Freeport Harbour to bring in another large cruise line that will fill the void that will be left by Carnival Cruise. While the Carnival Cruise Port development is good news from an investment standpoint, at least for construction workers, I fear this particular model that Royal Caribbean and Disney are also developing will harm the domestic tourist industry in the long run.
Moreover, while Carnival Cruise might be able to increase the number of visitors to Grand Bahama through its $200 development, we need to bear in mind that cruise ship passengers spend substantially less than stopover visitors. I am hoping that the stakeholders at the GBPA have a plan in place to mitigate the potential fallout at the harbour once Carnival Cruise moves to its new port.