CRUISE ships are expected to bring over 70,000 tourists to the shores of TT during the 2019/2020 cruise season, Tourism TT estimates. The season runs from November 2019 to April 2020 .
When general purchases by cruise lines are added to the estimated US$50 that each tourist will spend, during their visit, it is anticipated that cruise tourism will generate over US$2.8 million for Trinidad’s economy alone. This estimation is based on research by Tourism TT over the previous three cruise seasons.
Currently, tourism activities, including cruise tourism, account for ten per cent of all jobs in TT – among them artisans, food service providers, tour guides, transport providers and people employed at the various sites of interest.
Chairman of Tourism TT, Howard Chin Lee, in a statement to Business Day said, “Our port is one of a few to offer cruise ship docking facilities in the capital city, with immediate access to duty free shopping, gift shops and boutiques, and easy access to our financial district. This undoubtedly presents a competitive advantage for Trinidad. Now, add to this our leisure, eco-tourism, and year-round festivals and you have a one-of-a-kind tourism experience like no other Caribbean island.”
To provide a taste of TT’s culture, upon arrival passengers are provided with cultural entertainment, courtesy Tourism TT.
This was on display last November during Christmas, when Tourism TT hosted a cultural welcome for Caribbean Princess’ 3,600 passengers to launch the 2019/2020 cruise season, treating passengers to parang music by Los Alumnos De San Juan, pan music by the TT Defence Force and moko jumbie displays.
Passengers were also able to sample TT’s food landscape, featuring iconic local cuisine like bake and shark, doubles, coconut water, chocolate, and Lopinot cocoa.
Arriving passengers during this year’s Carnival season can expect to experience similar sights and sounds, among them traditional Carnival characters, such as moko jumbies, steel pan, and tassa.
There are strategic elements to these welcome ceremonies. For example, the moko jumbie characters hold a huge national flag, designed for when international passengers want to pose to take pictures. This allows for shareable Instagram content that reflects TT’s culture and boosts social media activity from arriving tourists.
According to Tourism TT, cruise passengers who arrive on Carnival Monday and Tuesday usually do not play mas but rather, observe celebrations. However, approximately 40 per cent of all passengers partake in tours to various attractions in Trinidad.
Heidi Alert, CEO of Tourism TT told Business Day, “In Port-of-Spain, most hotel rooms are sold out for the Carnival period. Hoteliers have indicated that rooms were booked from the start of Summer 2019. It is excellent to note that cruises that arrive during the Carnival period and particularly those that stay overnight, provide additional room stock and is an opportunity for additional visitors to participate in Carnival activities.”
Alert notes that cruise tourism is as important as other forms of tourism as it facilitates the creation of new jobs and entrepreneurial development. She says it contributes foreign exchange to the local economy, particularly US dollars, which is the main currency used by tourists.
The most popular tours take passengers on a drive along Trinidad’s North Coast to Maracas Beach, as well as the Caroni Bird Sanctuary in Central Trinidad. The Asa Wright Nature Centre, Maracas Waterfall and Jeep Adventure Tours in the East are also other popular activities. These tours are usually organised by shipping agents in collaboration with local tour operators and transport providers.
Alert says there has been growth in the local tourism industry and Tourism TT is pushing for further growth. Approximately two cruise vessels arrive in Port of Spain each week.
However, she says, there is capacity for additional ships and there is an effort to have at least five to seven cruises arriving weekly. This will allow for financial sustainability of the cruise sector leading to growth in other supporting sectors like sites and attractions, service providers – tour guides/operators, transportation providers – and small tourism entrepreneurs.
Tourism TT is responsible for securing all the entertainment for the cultural welcome for individual cruise vessels. It partners with the Ministry of Tourism to manage and co-ordinate cruise office activities, inclusive of the provision of multilingual services. The body also provides hospitality and service quality training, under the Tourism Small Enterprise Project, to local industry partners to address major issues that can have an impact on the visitor experience.
In a perception survey done with passengers on the MSC Preziosa who arrived on January 23, Tourism TT reports that 81 per cent of those surveyed indicated that the visitor experience matched their expectations and not one passenger expressed a negative view of Trinidad.
Of the 27 vessels that are expected to dock in Port of Spain for the cruise season, four are expected to bring over
15,900 tourists to the shores of TT for Carnival 2020 celebrations. The first vessel, MSC Preziosa, owned by MSC Cruises, will arrive on February 6 and have a capacity of
From February 10 to 19, the Caribbean Princess by Princess Cruises and another MSC Preziosa vessel will bring an estimated
4,363 passengers respectively. For Carnival Monday, another Caribbean Princess vessel with
3,600 passengers will dock. Cruise passengers are mainly from North America and Europe.