Cruise lines will no longer receive incentives for docking ships in The Bahamas. The change in policy was announced last week by the Minister of Tourism for the Bahamas, Dionisio D’Aguilar.
“In the past we used to provide incentives for cruise passengers to come here; but to be quite honest with you, we were paying for a lot of people who didn’t come off the boat. So we scrapped all those incentives, we don’t have any incentives anymore; we’re not paying any cruise line to bring any passengers here,” said D’Aguilar.
According to published reports in the Nassau Guardian, D’Aguilar said the government was paying some $12 million per year to incentivize cruise line calls to The Bahamas. However, many passengers do not disembark.
D’Aguilar made the comments while discussing proposals for redeveloping and managing Prince George Dock.
“The cruise companies are very, very profitable; they make a lot of money. Why are we paying them to bring cruise passengers to our port and then we’re finding that some of them are not coming off? So why are we giving incentives for people to come to Nassau and sit on the boat, eat their food and not spend money in our country?” he asked.
D’Aguilar noted further that any future incentive program would take the place of a rebate based on actual disembarkations.
“It makes sense that, if we’re going to tie an incentive, it’s how many people come off the boat and how many people spend money in our country and then you get something back; just don’t bring them here and we give you something. We need to be more focused and more targeted in our incentives,” he said.
Plans call for the Prince George Dock redevelopment project to commence in 2019 and take two years.
In light of the dozens of cruise ships in the construction phase right now, D’Aguilar said he’s not too concerned with bringing passengers to The Bahamas. His focus is on providing a better experience for those passengers once they arrive.
“They should want to come here. There should be something wonderful for them to do here. If you think about it, God has geographically blessed The Bahamas. We are the closest port to the largest cruise ports in the world, Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Cape Canaveral. So if you’re going to go on a three-day cruise, you’re coming to Nassau or Freeport. So, I don’t think there needs to be incentives; this is where people want to come, we just have to make it a wonderful place for them to visit and make it memorable so that they want to come back here and it refreshes itself,” he said.
With larger ships coming on line, it’s especially important to provide an updated and attractive shore experience said D’Aguilar.
“When we finish this redevelopment, I’m hoping that more Bahamians can have businesses down there, so that they can benefit from the 3.6 million cruise passengers that come into this country. The goal is once this transformation has taken place, there will be a better offering of excursions, a better offering of goods, a better offering of food and beverage options, the cruise passengers will be minded – not only the cruise passengers but also the crew – will be minded to come off the ships and spend more money in the port. So, I’m very excited that this process has started, and we’ll see what happens.”
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