Stakeholders hopeful as cruise ship returns to MoBay after COVID shutdownThursday, December 02, 2021
BY HORACE HINES
MONTEGO BAY, St James - Yesterday's arrival of the Carnival Glory cruise vessel to Montego Bay brought strong hope for the resurgence of the sector among duty-free merchants and other stakeholders who were hard hit when the sector came to a grinding halt due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
It was the first cruise vessel to arrive in the tourism mecca since the first case of the respiratory disease was detected on the island in March 2020.
According to president of the Duty Free Association of Jamaica, Anup Chandiram, the arrival of the Carnival Cruise Line-operated Carnival Glory to Montego Bay yesterday was highly appreciated by the duty-free shopping sector.
“We are very, very encouraged and we are very hopeful and we think it will give another dimension to our tourism recovery to the small to medium enterprises that are in the non-accommodation sector. We think attractions, shopping craft, transportation and others will benefit,” Chandiram argued.
Ravi Daswani, director of the Royal Shop chain of duty free stores, was equally excited.
“I am elated. I am looking for the experience to interact with tourists from a cruise ship which is what we were used to. It allows my staff to get back into the mode of interaction and maybe at the end of the day we will be able to make some sales, even though we are not running at 100 per cent capacity,” Daswani told the Jamaica Observer West shortly after the arrival of the vessel with its 2,500 passengers and crew.
For his part, president of the Montego Bay chapter of Jamaica Union of Travellers Association (JUTA) Montego Bay, Simon Lawrence, was very happy for the return of cruise to the resort city.
“I am more than happy to welcome the Carnival Glory to Jamaica. And my members are overwhelmed,” expressed an elated Lawrence.
Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlett was also delighted for the return of cruise shipping to Montego Bay.
“I am delighted to welcome cruise back to the tourism capital of Jamaica – Montego Bay. I am certain that this will be a welcome move for our stakeholders, especially our small and medium tourism enterprises, who earn significantly from cruise passengers. We certainly look forward to welcoming Carnival passengers to our shores and assure them that this will be a memorable but very safe experience,” said Bartlett.
Meanwhile, Daswani recounted that following the downturn in business, his company had to make some hard decisions in an effort to survive. These, he said, included the shuttering of locations, which resulted in the displacement of workers, some of whom were employed by the Royal Shop for decades. The Royal Shop operated from branches out of Negril and Main Street Jamaica— formerly Shoppes of Rose Hall— and the Montego Bay Cruise Port.
“Over the last 18 to 20 months, we have had to take some decisions in consolidating our business, reducing a number of locations which were just not viable, leading to the displacement of long-standing staff,” Daswani bemoaned.
“We had to close a particular location which had eight to 10 staff. And certain staff in those locations who have served for so many years were cut. It's not a decision that we wished for, particularly the displacement of people who have been with you so many years, and have been loyal, but circumstances that we had no choice.”
But with the sector looking to rebound, he is hoping that the shuttered locations can be reopened.
“If it does happen that those locations can be reopened, we will revisit that at some time,” Daswani stressed.
Chandiram argued that “I think people are on a razor's edge”.
“I would say that we need the recovery and we need it now because certainly the port of Falmouth is dependent on it, Ocho Rios and even in Montego Bay at Main Street Jamaica we are sitting on a razor's edge. I don't think many of the players can last another season, another winter without substantial return of our visitors. We look forward to everybody's support,” he said.
Daswani explained that prior to the phased return of cruise, the duty-free sector had to bank heavily on guests from hotels along the resilient corridor.
“During the absence of the cruise business, our business was only generated from those visitors at the hotels on the resilient corridor. Those were the only ones allowed to come out. So far, that formula has worked, it has worked quite well,” he argued.
Cruise shipping has also returned to the Falmouth, Port Royal, Port Antonio and Ocho Rios ports.
Yesterday's arrival of the Carnival Glory to the second city was managed by the Port Authority of Jamaica, the Ministry of Health and Wellness, the Tourism Product Development Company (TPDCo) and the Jamaica Vacations Limited.