Minister for Tourism, Robert Tonge has revealed disappointing preliminary figures for the just-ended 2015/2016 cruise ship season in Dominica.
Speaking at the launch of Tourism Awareness Month on Wednesday, he blamed “challenges” such as high winds which resulted in seven cancelled ship calls.
“For the cruise season 2015 to 2016, which is October to April, preliminary figures indicate we received 165 calls, with a total of 284,000 passengers,” he said. “We expected more but we must be aware as to what were some of the challenges; and one of the challenges was that whenever there’s high winds, it impacts on the ability for some of these boats to come to dock into our port. So, unfortunately, there were seven cancelled calls due to weather-related issues.”
Tonge divulged that for the 2016/2017 season, 319,175 passengers are expected to arrive from 169 calls.
However, he explained that “these increases will all be in vain if we do not ensure that all the initiatives that need to be put in place are implemented.”
Thus, Tonge announced a number of regulations which will be introduced for the next cruise ship season.
He stated that Dominica has high ratings of 8.7 for organized tours and maintain this standard, each bus is expected to have a tour guide.
“One of the mandatory things that we’re going to do for the following season is that every single bus being dispatched from the Bayfront must have a tour guide… Once these buses have tour guides and those guides are properly trained, the guest experience is very, very good,” Tonge said.
The importance of having multi-lingual tour guides was underscored.
Tonge explained that in order to avoid overcrowding at sites visited by tourists, only buses dispatched from the cruise terminal will be allowed to go to those sites at that time.
Additionally, he articulated that minimum tour rates will be introduced, “to ensure that our bus owners have fair return on their investment. A new dispatch system will be implemented that will allow more equitable distribution and the engagement of tour operators.”
All bus drivers and owners were asked to ensure that the necessary standards are met and the regulations are adhered to.
The Ministry is also seeking to establish a holding area for buses to encourage order, to facilitate inspection of vehicles and to reduce traffic congestion in the city.
There is more bad new in terms of stay-over arrivals.
Tongue revealed that preliminary statistics show an 8.6 percent decline in stay-overs for January to December 2015.
He noted that the passage of Tropical Storm Erika in August 2015 rendered airports closed and impacted arrivals and the hotel stock.