Expect more tourists in St. Vincent and Grenadines (SVG) this cruise season.
Minister of Tourism Carlos James said on Monday that SVG is in for a record-breaking cruise tourism season.
He told a press conference in Kingstown that the protocols put in place at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic have been rescinded.
“So what we will see this year is a free flow of persons disembarking and traveling across St. Vincent and the Grenadines to participate and enjoy our culture, gastronomy sites, and to really take in … the beauty and splendour of St. Vincent and the Grenadines,” James said.
He said the destination is expecting 305 scheduled calls, 12 of which are inaugural calls.
“We are expecting a passenger count of … just below 326,000 passengers,” he said, adding that from his checks, it would be the highest passenger arrival figure in SVG.
He said he has asked his ministry to not compare this year to last year’s cruise season, but to 2018-19, before the COVID-19 pandemic.
“So what that says to us is that it represents a 29% increase in cruise calls from our pre-pandemic numbers — our benchmark year 2018, 2019; we’re now at 29%. More calls than we had before the pandemic.
He said 2022-2023 cruise passenger arrivals are projected to be 44% more than 2018-2019, the “benchmark year” and the number of call of calls represent a 29% increase.
“It is, by all of the indications, a pretty good show and in terms of the work that we had put in, even in the pandemic period,” James said.
“Even myself, I got intimately involved with the discussions with the cruise lines, government relations personnel to ensure that St. Vincent and the Grenadines remained a favourable destination, even despite the COVID-19 pandemic and the explosive eruption of our La Soufriere volcano,” the tourism minister said.
He said that despite these numbers SVG could have been receiving more calls.
“One of the challenges we had is the limitations we have at our cruise terminal,” he said, noting that the destination is unable to dock three and four vessels per day.”
He said that some cruise ships that wanted to visit the destination were unable to because the slots were already filled.
“It’s a bit more convenient to have a bigger terminal that can accommodate three or four or five vessels at the same time.”
James said he is pleased that a new cargo terminal is being built towards the western end of Kingstown, leaving space for the expansion of the cruise terminal.
“… In fact, during a recent visit to the Florida Caribbean Cruise Association Conference, a number of the port itinerary managers for the cruise lines were quite excited to hear that St. Vincent and the Grenadines is looking to expand their cruise terminal by having this space freed up to accommodate that expansion.”
James said SVG is “a destination that a lot of the cruise lines and passengers want to visit…
“… we could have literally had more cruise lines coming but our capacity to accommodate them remains a challenge and I just want to indicate that.
“So when there are persons who may be objecting to the financing of a new port in Kingstown, please understand that the expansion of Kingstown as a city in terms of our harbour, both our cruise and our cargo ports cannot accommodate the load and the capacity that we need to see to have more robust commercial activity and more activity as it relates to cruise calls,” James said.