Barbados has set a new record for cruise passenger arrivals in a single year.
Barbados Port Inc. is reporting cruise passenger arrivals totaling 853 200 from 422 cruise ship calls during the period January to December 2019, the highest on record to date.
This number represents a 3% increase in cruise passenger arrivals at the Port of Bridgetown over 2018. Barbados’ previous cruise high was 827 486 visitors registered in 2017, when the island benefitted significantly from the redeployment of ships from other destinations ravaged by hurricanes that year. In 2018, some 826 267 cruise passenger arrivals were registered from 437 vessel calls.
Barbados has also recorded significant growth in its homeporting operations. Some 227 192 homeporting arrivals were registered at the Port of Bridgetown in 2019, a 15.6% increase over 2018 when 197 185 homeporting passengers were noted. Homeporting calls declined slightly from 157 in 2018 to 153 last year, but the visitor growth was achieved with the Marella, AIDA and TUI cruise lines all deploying larger capacity ships.
On the Barbados itinerary, AIDA exchanged its 2 030 passenger capacity AIDA Diva, for the AIDA Perla, which carries 3 286 passengers. TUI similarly exchanged its Mein Schiff 5 with a capacity of 2 500, for the 2 894 passenger Mein Schiff 2. The number of calls from Marella also increased from 31 in 2018 to 45 in 2019.
Minister of Maritime Affairs and the Blue Economy, Hon. Kirk Humphrey, in commenting on the results, said Barbados Port Inc. has been moving to enhance its cruise operations and has been making strides to address issues related to port capacity constraints. In 2019, he said BPI implemented a number of initiatives to address findings noted in the National Cruise Development Commission Report, 2019. These include enhanced wayfinding and guest experiences through the installation of signage, the renovation and enhancement of taxi dispatch facilities and the offering of improved guest services such as the quay to terminal tram service. BPI has also been actively engaging cruise lines, in partnership with key industry stakeholders including Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc (BTMI).
Looking to the future Minister Humphrey said, “With the trend towards mega ships and the projected increase in cruise tourism passengers, BPI also has to respond to the growing numbers of smaller vessel operations, who desire a more geographically segmented product for their passengers, physically separated from the large vessel cruise tourism typically handled at the Port of Bridgetown.”
To this end, BPI has invited Expressions of Interest from potential joint venture partners for the design, construction, operation and management of a cruise ship pier and ancillary facilities at Speightstown, St. Peter. Minister Humphrey explained, “Establishment of cruise facilities in the North of the island is part of the product differentiation thrust which will position Barbados to capture the super yachts and small luxury class cruise vessels segments of the cruise industry.”
The proposal to develop cruise facilities in Speightstown is expected to create growth opportunities for residents and existing businesses in the area. The initiative is not just a construction project on its own, but is rather a developmental project, incorporating planning gains as legislated by the Cabinet of Barbados for new projects, with attendant benefits for the surrounding community.
BPI has also invited Expressions of Interest from potential joint venture partners for the the design and construction of additional berths and ancillary facilities in the Shallow Draught at the Port of Bridgetown. The Minister said this development is intended to drive marina business in recreational boating and yachting.
BPI is also currently reviewing the plans for cruise facilities in Bridgetown, with the aim of separating the mega cruise vessel operations from the cargo operations in the Deep Water Harbour, to ensure that the service levels to each sector can be better streamlined, particularly with respect to specific homeporting requirements. Discussions are currently underway with potential partners for this mega cruise ship project.
The Port of Bridgetown’s cruise-ship schedule for 2020 projects a total of 427 cruise ship calls, bringing an estimated 850 000 passengers to the island.