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Tourism officials plan to develop cruise sector in Barbuda

Minister of Tourism, Charles ‘Max’ Fernandez, has said plans are afoot to develop a cruise tourism sector on Barbuda.

Fernandez said tourism officials have already started discussions to develop the land-based aspect of the cruise sector, including the construction of a shopping centre on the sister isle to bring its infrastructure in line with the level of development on mainland Antigua.

“I would say Barbuda is clearly on a trajectory very soon to be the new St. Barts of the Caribbean. We had discussions recently to look towards bringing cruise visitors to Barbuda sometime in the future,” Fernandez said.

“So there are ongoing discussions, in other words, to develop something similar to what we are doing in Antigua in terms of development of the landside where we can have Barbudans and Antiguans being able to have some kiosks and shops at the area where those come in.

“So that is something that is on the drawing board and we are hoping that we are able to manage the industry, manage the (Coronavirus) pandemic and be able to move forward with these very exciting ideas,” the tourism minister added.

Unlike mainland Antigua, cruise ship visits to Barbuda have been sparse with smaller vessels only making an occasional trip across to the sister isle in the past.

After being decimated by the novel coronavirus pandemic for almost two years, the cruise industry started to slowly rebound late last year by adhering to strict Covid-19 protocols to facilitate cruise ship passenger tours.

While speaking to Pointe on De Streetz on Pointe FM Radio yesterday, Minister Fernandez says the cruise industry has continued to adjust and implement Covid-19 protocols to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

“The airlines, we know, are still considered to be safer. The reason for that is that you spend less time on an aircraft than on a cruise line. What I can tell you has happened though is that the cruise lines are very conscious of their importance to the industry. As a result, they are under the guidance of the CDC (United States Centre for Disease Control), they have been working steadily to improve their protocols,” Fernandez said.

“I can tell you, since reopening or restarting the cruises, they have gone to a stage where apart from the fact that everyone is vaccinated, they (cruise passengers) are also tested before they come on board, and in addition to that, you have a situation where they now have to wear their masks onboard the ship, in places where, before, they would not have had to have done that.

“So it continues to evolve and continue to work towards getting the industry a lot safer,” he added.

Cruise ships started to return to the twin-island state during the final quarter of last year and the January cruise arrival calendar, released by the Antigua & Barbuda Port Authority, revealed a packed itinerary.

On several days throughout the month, Antigua and Barbuda will host as many as six vessels across its several ports in St. John’s, Falmouth and Barbuda.

Only three vessels have cancelled their January calls to the Island.

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