Over $6 million dollars have been invested by government into readying Dominica’s tourist attraction sites and the city of Roseau for the newly started 2018/2019. This figure adds to the contributions also made by the members and partners of the Dominica Hotel and Tourism Association (DHTA) in readying the country for the 189 anticipated cruise calls.
Cruise visits are regarded as a critical contributor to economic activity in Dominica and is one of the most impactful sectors of the tourism industry. For this reason, the Dominica Hotel and Tourism Association DHTA and other stakeholders continue to lobby for the increase in cruise calls to the island.
After Hurricane Maria in September last year, Dominica received 34 out of the 219 anticipated cruise calls for the 2017/2018 cruise season; an unwelcomed shock to vendors, taxi operators and other small artisan businesses. Speaking at a ceremony to mark the start of the season on October 30, Hon. Robert Tonge, Minister for Tourism and Culture said over $500,000 has been spent to support these small businesses in preparation for this new season.
The destination expects 189 calls for the season that will include nine new ships – each of which will be welcomed with inaugural ceremonies. Approximately 300,000 cruise passengers are expected from the189 cruise calls expected for the 2018/2019 season.
To kick off the season, the MV Celebrity Summit of Celebrity Cruises arrived at the Roseau Cruise Ship Berth on October 30th bringing along approximately 2,500 passengers. The ship is scheduled to make nine calls to the island during the season.
As ships dock on Dominica’s shores, the impact of cruise tourism and visitor arrivals on the economy becomes very apparent, affecting duty-free stores, vendors of locally made products, and the occasional contracted entertainer, await the sales that sustain their livelihoods.
In the city, restaurateurs, craft makers, and boutique owners report increases in business activity, and in the rural areas, tour operators, excursion workers, and divers mobilise efforts.
“Stakeholders understand the value of these visitors to the industry and to the country. What we need now is for other sector members to get a better understanding of the advantages cruise tourism has on small island states like Dominica,” DHTA Executive Vice President, Kevin A. Francis stated.
The publicity given to a country by cruise visitors has the potential to be both detrimental and extremely favourable to that island’s tourism sector. With limited resources to promote the country as much as desired, there is need to capitalize on the promotional capabilities of tourists, who visit Dominica.
“We always look forward to the start of the cruise season and we are quite optimistic on the impact of this season on the economy, this year more than ever as the industry recovers from Hurricane Maria” said Marvlyn James, DHTA President. “We have to ensure that the cruise visitors to our Island have a memorable experience while they are here. This is not a task only for the hotel and tourism sector stakeholders but for all citizens. When the tourism industry thrives the entire country benefits.”
“In this world of social media, just mentioning #Dominica on any social media platform improves Dominica’s visibility and encourages internet searches that could very well lead to increased visitor arrivals and we have to take that into consideration,” Francis added.
Surely, cruise tourism must not only be praised for the good it does but for the good it can potentially do. Cruise tourists often become stay-over tourists. And while stay-over tourism is desired, there ought to be no confusion that cruise tourists are also well appreciated. Stay-over tourists tend to contribute more to the economy than cruise tourists and are likely to become repeat visitors.
Ryan Skeete, Director of Research and IT at the Caribbean Tourism Organization, stated that the region had reached a milestone in 2017 by “surpassing 30 million stay-over/tourist visits for the first time and reaching an estimated US $37 billion in total visitor spending” and cruise tourism could very well be the vehicle needed to increase those numbers further.