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Loss of cruise ships set to impact retailers

Cruise ships steering away from visits to Bermuda could cause a huge hit to some already-suffering retailers.

Next year, Carnival Cruises will only visit the Island once, while the Holland America Line’s

Veendam is not scheduled to visit the Island at all in the 2013 season.

Somers Cooper, managing director of AS Coopers, said the loss of the ships, and the thousands of passengers on board, would be a notable loss to the retail sector.

He called the

Veendam announcement extremely disappointing, saying: “We in Hamilton really saw a significant impact on business when the

Veendam came to town. We thought Holland America brought a good standard of passenger.”

While he said he couldn’t see AS Coopers resorting to laying off employees, other businesses might not be as fortunate.

“It’s going to be difficult for businesses who cater to those ships,” he said. “We are talking about a significant drop in customers.”

He estimated that around 25 percent of the company’s current sales come from visitors to the Island, but said that rate used to be more than 50 percent.

“A lot of businesses have shifted significantly to cater to the locals. Over the years, the tourist season has gotten shorter and shorter,” he said.

“I think that most people who cater to tourists have had to adjust the way they do business to supplement what once was a very strong tourist market.”

Mr Cooper said he was not optimistic that a new ship could be brought to the Island soon to replace the lost visits, saying that Cruise Lines typically organise years in advance.

To make matters more difficult, only a handful of ships can safely operate in St George’s and Hamilton due to their size. Out of 165 cruise ships available for the North American and European markets, only 26 can safely pass through town cut, nine of which are scheduled to be retired in the next few years.

“We are really going to have to think about where we are going to try to get back that lost income,” he said.

Isabella Ramsey-Brackstone of the Bermuda Perfumery, in St George’s, said the loss of the

Veendam would have a notable affect on the perfumery’s business, saying: “It brought a very affluent group of people, and we did very, very well with those passengers.”

However, she said the loss of the Carnival cruises would have less of an affect on St George’s, in part because of the short duration of their visits and in part because of weaknesses in the public transportation system.

“In 2010 we had a record year even though St George’s didn’t have a large number of cruise ships, but this summer was terrible,” she said. “If you have a product people are interested in, they will find you, but if they can’t get to you it’s all for nothing.

“We had a ferry coming to St George’s from Hamilton at 5pm and it was empty. If Government wants to run more effectively, talk to us.”

However, she said she is hopeful that new Transport Minister Derrick Burgess would help turn the ferry system around in time for next summer.

Hamilton Mayor Charles Gosling said he will be speaking with the Government about possible alternatives to the lost ships, and what if anything the Corporation can do to turn the situation around.

Noting that the city has suffered in the past from declines in cruise ship visitors, he said: “We want to find out the concerns of the cruise lines and see the issues that the ships are facing that are preventing us from getting those visits.

“When we know what those issues are we will see what the Corporation can do to alleviate them.”

Last week, Tourism Minister Wayne Furbert said that the loss of the ships might not lead to a long term impact, with larger cruise ships expecting to visit the Island in 2013.

“We may lose some numbers on the

Veendam, but gain some on another ship, so we may still have the same numbers,” Mr Furbert said.

The Veendam cruise ship docked in Hamilton. The loss of cruise ships, such as the Veendam, which will not come to the Island in 2013, could lead to more difficult trading conditions for retailers.

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Published November 21, 2011 at 8:43 am (Updated November 21, 2011 at 8:42 am)

Loss of cruise ships set to impact retailers

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