GEORGE TOWN, Cayman Islands: The tiny Caribbean island of Anguilla says it will continue to frown on cruise tourism even as the British Overseas Territory rebuilds its tourism sector after the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Tourism officials say that the revenue generated from cruise tourism is not worth the environmental impact.
“Well, it’s a given, it’s not even debatable that cruise does hurt the overall environment,” Minister of Tourism Haydn Hughes told the Caribbean Tourism Organisation’s (CTO) “Destination Media Briefing,” marking the opening day of activities for the CTO Business Meetings and Caribbean Aviation Day Event, which ends on September 15.
“You have to weigh what you would benefit from a cruise and what will be the drawbacks,” he said, adding that the British overseas territory has decided over decades that cruise tourism is not suitable for the destination.
Hughes told reporters that cruise is unsuitable for Anguilla, which is positioning itself “in a particular sphere where you want to have the high end …which brings a lot more revenue to a destination than cruise persons”.
The tourism minister said that in St. Thomas and St. Maarten, the Caribbean destinations in which cruise passengers spend the most, the average expenditure is US$172 per passenger.
“… but when you are in a destination that does not have an all-inclusive, you know that when persons come to Anguilla, the wealth is spread across the spectrum, significantly,” he said.
“Everybody in Anguilla benefits from the sector. And the average daily rate is not $200 a night. In some instances, especially during the festive season, you can have villas, and some hotels can command $25,000 a night for a room, with a 20 percent tax. So that is significant.
“And those persons dine around, they go to the different restaurants and use all of the services in Anguilla. And it’s a destination where wherever you see on television, whoever you see in the NFL in the NBA, you see them on the streets of Anguilla enjoying Anguilla, just like everybody else, and that is where you want to position yourself.”
Hughes said bringing 100,000 passengers to Anguilla on cruises would “somewhat water down the product.
“And that is what we want to protect; we want to protect the integrity of the product and ensure that Anguillan people are the biggest beneficiaries of the tourism sector,” he added.
Meanwhile, Anguilla has been able to attract several international airlines but says it does not provide minimum revenue guarantees for seats in the territory.
Hughes said that during the COVID-19 pandemic, it was primarily celebrities traveling to Anguilla and that improvements in public infrastructure, including the airport, have made the destination more attractive.
“And based on our record and what we have done, American Airlines decided to take the chance and have done so successfully. So we did not have to engage in the minimum revenue guarantees,” Hughes said.
“We have told the airlines that we will not pay them to come to our destination. You have to come based on our product and what we offer; they have done so, and it has been very successful.”
He said American Airlines started twice weekly, nonstop service from Miami to Anguilla in December 2021 — the first commercial flight from the US mainland. The service moved to three times a week in January and then operated daily from April 2.
“The service has performed exceptionally well, with the result that starting November 3, American will operate eight flights a week to Anguilla, and increase to 11 flights a week over the festive season, from December 18 through January 8.”
Hughes said Silver Airways and Tradewind Aviation continue to provide service from San Juan, Puerto Rico, directly into Anguilla.
“It is a seamless connection thanks to codeshare agreements with Delta, American, and JetBlue,” he said, adding that the infrastructural developments in the country are taking place as the government is keen on transforming the face of Anguilla.
“… and we haven’t further discussions with aviation companies as we seek to extend the length of our strip and build a new terminal,” he said, adding that the new terminal is set to commence construction in the first quarter of 2023.
“So we have a 20-year plan for aviation and aerodrome development, and that plan has already started. So, in other words, the aviation companies, the airline companies are also confident that we are making investments as well,” Hughes said.
He said that the destination would end all COVID-19 entry requirements this month. Unvaccinated travelers have to get tested 48 hours before arriving in Anguilla.