Royal Caribbean and Carnival Cruise Lines are expected to make a re-entry into the British Virgin Islands in 2018 and 2019 respectively, Minister of Communication and Works Mark Vanterpool announced last evening, April 3.
The two cruise companies pulled out of the territory some three years ago when the government signed preferential berthing agreements with Disney Cruise Line and Norwegian Cruise Line.
Making the announcement on NDP Radio last evening, Vanterpool said: “We’ve had meetings in Miami in March [and] a number of the cruise ship companies are vying to come. We now have to even try to control how we do that as we go along, but we expect more ships to come in 2018. We expect Royal Caribbean to be back in that year, and the following year hopefully we will begin to see some Carnival ships coming back into the territory.”
Vanterpool stated that the BVI continues to reap much success in the cruise ship industry, noting that the territory stands to benefit from increased earnings.
According to him, each cruise ship passenger is expected to spend more in the local economy.
“When I was at the trade show, one of the director for the Caribbean Cruise Association said to me ‘how much do you think each passenger will spend in your country?’ I said, the number is now $50 before we got the cruise pier [expanded]. He said ‘how much you think it will get to when you do the survey this year or next year?’ I said $100 [per passenger], and he said ‘no, we expect it to be between $130 and $150 per passenger,” Vanterpool said.
He added: “This means, when we get to the million range [in cruise passengers to the territory] in a year, [we will have] $150 million being spent by cruise passengers in the BVI. That’s on taxis, purchases and tours, and all the different things that we do.”
Vanterpool noted that the estimated spending amount per passenger is in keeping with that of passengers travelling through St Thomas and St Maarten, adding that it is perhaps the highest in the Caribbean.
“When we get to that level, then we will be adding $150 million to the economy – to the GDP [Gross Domestic Product]. That’s not peanut money; that is at least 15 percent of our GDP. I think it will be good,” the minister further said.
Vanterpool, while noting that the territory already has hit the 700,000 mark in terms of cruise passengers coming into the BVI in a year, said the government is doing well in paying off the cost associated with the construction of the cruise pier in Road Town.
“We already pay down between interest and principal almost $9 million, and we continue to work that down. So, even under 10 years, we expect that debt will be paid down at the rate that we are going in terms of the number of passengers coming into the country.”
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