The port authority of a popular private island destination has this week signed terms with two major cruise liners in a long-term move to boost tourist numbers by up to 425,000 guests per year.
Just months after announcing their intention to develop a new private island port off the coast of Belize, Florida-based cruise ship company Norwegian Cruise Lines has upped the stakes for other ocean carriers by signing a long-term deal with Disney Cruises which promises to boost tourist figures in the British Virgin Islands by up to 425,000 guests per year.
In exchange for preferential berthing at Tortola’s notoriously busy harbour, ocean giants Norwegian Cruise Lines and Disney Cruise Line have promised to deliver a total of 425,000 passengers per year (350,000 and 75,000 respectively) at the head tax rate of USD 15.00 for the next 15 years or else pay for lost tax revenues to the BVI port authority in the event of a deficit.
Alongside Disney Cruise Line President Karl Holz, the Vice President of Norwegian Cruise Lines, Colin Murphy, travelled to the islands on Friday to officially sign the contract, which after many months in the making, signals the start of a major upgrade of the docking area, the cruise berth and the landside facilities at Tortola’s outdated port.
Government Minister Mark Vanterpool explained to reporters that the British Virgin Islands wanted to ensure that they partnered with quality cruise ship operations: “We were very keen on ensuring that we had a secured number of passengers who will come to our shores in the next couple of years. The total of 425,000 passengers is a beginning for us to build on.”
Whilst hoped to bring some much needed stability to the British Virgin Islands’ ailing cruise tourism sector, which has seen passenger numbers decline by over a third since 2008, the move has already rocked the boat for other liners operating in the region, including the territory’s largest cruise customer: Carnival Cruise Lines.
The preferential treatment of Norwegian and Disney has dismayed officials at Carnival Cruise Lines, who, in the light of seeing their fleet pushed to the back of the queue, are said to be considering their options and have already pulled out of the region between June 2014 and April 2015, cancelling 60 calls in the process.
One possible option said to be under consideration is the development of a further private island port. Carnival already famously owns Bahaman island Half Moon Cay, and could well be lining up a move for a second island in the British Virgin Islands. A tried and tested model, a private island in the BVI would make a lasting impression on passengers as well as form a solution to Tortola’s congested port… Private Island News says: watch this space.