Romer defends criticism that Bahamians are not benefitting from increase in cruise visitors


Tribune Staff Reporter


DESPITE recent criticism that Bahamians are not benefitting from this year’s increase in cruise ship passenger arrivals, Dr Kenneth Romer, deputy director general of the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism and Aviation, said yesterday this is not what he has seen.

“I’m employed by Tourism and I will speak personally, I’m benefiting,” Dr Romer said yesterday during a press briefing at the Office of the Prime Minister.

“Hotels are experiencing record-breaking numbers of occupancy. Average daily rates are at a record-time high and when I walk through the straw markets, I’m seeing our local entrepreneurs and stakeholders, who are benefitting from the influx of cruise passengers.

“They are able to put bread on their tables, uniforms on their children and put tithes in their offering plates, because of the 5.5 million who have come in from the cruise lines. I will speak to those particular entrepreneurs and ask them again if they’re benefiting from the increased tourism numbers.

“Could we do more? The answer is yes. Have we done more compared to pre-pandemic years? We’re all happy to be back on our jobs and to have tourists coming. There was a time when there was nobody walking downtown, we don’t want to go back to those days. So, are we benefiting? Yes. Can we benefit more? The answer again is yes,” Dr Romer said.

Dr Romer’s comments follow those of Obie Ferguson, the Trades Union Congress (TUC) president, who told Tribune Business on Tuesday that Bahamian workers were not benefiting as much as needed from record-breaking tourism arrival numbers. He said more than 80 percent, or over one of every four, are lower-spending cruise passengers.

“They come in the morning and leave the country at 6m-7pm that night,” he said of the cruise industry.

“I remember when they were never allowed to operate their shops and bars, but now they open them in port … We have to find a way that, when the tourists come here, there is something they can do that is more than having a Goombay Punch or Bahama Mama or something of that nature.

“We need economic activity to cause tourists to spend more than what they’re spending. By and large, the economy is doing well and the workers are not benefiting from it, in my humble opinion, in the manner they ought to be benefiting from it,” Mr Ferguson said.

Data seen by this newspaper last month, showed that the Nassau Cruise Port is forecasting it will receive 5.364m passengers during the 2024 calendar year, a 19.6 percent or 882,000 increase on the 4.483m arrivals projected for the 2023 full year.

Both figures represent major rises over previous predictions, with Michael Maura, the Prince George Wharf operator’s chief executive, forecasting five months ago that the Nassau Cruise Port had confirmed bookings for 4.2m passengers this year and between 4.5m-4.6m in 2024. The revised figures represent increases of 283,000 or 6.7 percent for 2023, and at least 764,000 or 16.6 percent for 2024, if these projections become reality.

Both this year and next are predicted to easily surpass the pre-COVID high of 2019.


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