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Saturday, July 20, 2024


The Caribbean is the world's dominant cruise region, with 45 percent of the market, but that could change if it doesn't expand to meet the needs of the growing industry, Edward Thomas, president of The West Indian Company Ltd., told 40 students taking part in the Future Global Leaders conference on the St. Thomas campus of the University of the Virgin Islands.
Thomas said the region should see a "proliferation of mega-ships in the years ahead," adding, "that means more and bigger ships and lots more persons on our beaches and in our ports." But, he said, the day Cuba opens to U.S. visitors, all that could change.
Should Cuba open to cruise ships from the United States, Thomas said, new itineraries including calls at Cuban ports will be implemented immediately. Havana will most likely replace the Bahamas on three- and four-day itineraries, and Jamaica on seven-day Western Caribbean routes. Thomas said, "Any negative effects may be short-term, since first-time cruisers who are attracted by the draw of Cuba should return for cruises to the Eastern Caribbean once the novelty wears off."
The cruise industry contributed $5.4 billion to the Caribbean economy in 1999, Thomas told the students. To remain competitive, he said, the region must be prepared to support the expanding industry. "Aruba is in the process of relocating cargo facilities out of downtown Orangestad, leaving the area as a dedicated cruise ship port with modern terminals and berths," he said. Thomas said other islands involved in capital projects include St. Martin, the Bahamas and St. Thomas, where work is under way to strengthen the western end of the WICO dock.
Thomas challenged the students to return to their home districts and "work with your chambers of commerce or equivalent organizations to ensure that a significant amount of supplies are purchased in your islands."
He told the students that the African-Caribbean trade bill signed recently by President Clinton will encourage U.S.-based manufacturers to establish processing and manufacturing plants in this region. But he said the Caribbean cannot allow this victory to detract from the need to be dominant in the tourism field, since it is a major source of revenue in the globally competitive marketplace.

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