A newspaper in the Bahamas published an interesting article quoting the newly appointed tourism minister, Obie Wilchcombe, in the Bahamas: Cruise ships are " . . . floating shopping malls now, casinos and hotels. The Caribbean made a mistake 20 years ago when they didn’t limit what cruise ships could do; now the cruise ships own the towns. In Antigua and other places like that, they actually own shopping areas.”
Mr. Wilchcombe articulated what many merchants in the Bahamas and other Caribbean islands have been muttering under their breath for years.
The cruise ships have become bigger and bigger over the years, with more and more attractions being added to the ships. Cruising has increasingly become an all inclusive vacation where the cruise ship is the destination itself and many passengers do not even come off of the cruise ships to shop. The cruise ships are also sucking money out of the passengers before they come to port: “Everything is paid for ahead of time, and they just come with a few dollars in their pockets."
Mr. Wilchcombe also lamented that the cruisers who do come ashore have less money than before. The flood of new ships has changed the type of people (i.e., less affluent) who walk up and down Bay Street in Nassau.
His goal is to attract a greater number of tourists to come to the Bahamas by air, who will stay in and eat at Bahamian owned hotels and restaurants.
We wish Mr. Wilchcombe good luck with that. Unfortunately, the cruise industry has benefited from its predatory relationship with the little Caribbean islands for many decades.
Miami-based cruise lines enjoy a tax free income many times greater than the GNP of the Bahamas or any Caribbean country for that matter. With few independent or sustainable industries, the Bahamas need the cruise lines far more than the cruise lines need it. Unrealistically low head taxes, deterioration of the port's infrastructure, unfair fees to shore-side excursions vendors, and cruise tourists who have already emptied their pockets on the cruise ships are signs of a master-servant relationship that continues to exploit the beautiful islands and people in the Caribbean.
History of Bay Street and the Bahamas interest you? Consider reading:
Photo Credit: Liquid Latitudes