Tourism Authority CEO says a successful first visit of Celebrity Cruises ship could entice other ships to return too
BASSETERRE, ST. KITTS & NEVIS — The Celebrity Equinox’s recent call at Port Zante signified the light at the end of the tunnel for thousands of cruise industry jobs that have been stunted for nearly two years.
On Tuesday, September 14, 2021, the cruise ship became the first major liner to visit St. Kitts since March 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Minister of Tourism, Transport and Ports Lindsay Grant hailed the Celebrity Equinox’s arrival as “a day of hope” that has been “anxiously anticipated and a long time in coming as we continued our phased approach to rebuilding the cruise sector”.
St. Kitts Tourism Authority CEO Racquel Brown expounded on that point, noting at the official welcoming ceremony, “This industry is resilient and has the power to sustain livelihoods. Today, on this momentous occasion, we continue our progressive journey to rebuild tourism safely in a manner that allows us to continue our tradition as a marquee port and reap economic benefits for all.”
In a separate interview with local media, Brown went into even further detail.
“We know that we have many challenges to overcome and we know that there’s many in the cruise industry and in the tourism industry 17 months after that are still hurting,” she said.
“We understand that and our job was to make [it] a success to ensure that other cruise lines and their brands return to St. Kitts.”
The CEO added, “Of course, it makes our job easier if over 5,000 persons that are in the industry get back to work. However, it’s a phased approach…”
According to Brown, just one ship in port, operating at 50 percent capacity due to COVID restrictions, is not enough to get all of the 531 taxi operators, 32 tour operators and five tour companies back to work. But she conceded that it is a start in the right direction.
“There is an issue as it speaks to how do we ensure that we get persons back to work and earning an income and it’s not easy and I could never profess to…be in the shoes of persons who are really struggling and suffering,” said Brown.
“But we are trying. We are really trying. There’s a ship that came in with 1,247 persons and we are gradually building this up.”