Homeporting could provide $40m boost
A brief summer cruise season with companies homeported in Bermuda stands to bring $40 million in economic impact, the transport minister revealed yesterday.
Lawrence Scott said the announcement that Viking would join Royal Caribbean in launching trips from Bermuda starting in June also stood to further boost air arrivals as cruise passengers flew to the island.
“The Ministry of Transport is focused on creating more balance in cruises and air visitors,” Mr Scott said. “Air arrivals become cruise visitors and cruise visitors become air arrivals.”
He added that airlines serving Bermuda had been asked to increase their available seating on the days passengers come in to board.
Mr Scott said an added bonus would be the offsetting of the cost of minimum revenue guarantee under the agreement for the island’s new airport terminal.
The next round of airport payments, which are based on projected flights, is to be determined at the end of this month.
Talks were “ongoing with a third cruise line that has indicated an interest in Bermuda”, Mr Lawrence said, contingent on its ability to meet health protocols in the island’s first cruise season since Covid-19 scuppered the industry a year ago.
He highlighted that the International Air Transport Association has predicted that global air travel will not resume pre-pandemic numbers until 2023 or 2024.
“What this does is help,” he said. “One balances out the other, by attracting increasing airline arrivals.”
He estimated 60 new part-time jobs would be created “directly because of this”, while hotels, taxi drivers and businesses offering excursions on the island would reap rewards.
Mr Scott said the Government was hopeful cruise visitors would close out their holidays with hotel, guesthouse and Airbnb stays on the island.
Although Royal Caribbean was the first to announce it was homeporting in Bermuda, he said Viking has been “the impetus” of the concept in November.
He added: “With all the ports shut down, they were looking for a safe place to launch their operations, who handled Covid well. Bermuda popped up on their radar. They reached out.
“What we like about Viking is they will visit every port here in Bermuda in a seven to eight day cruise.
“They start with a Hamilton cruise, they cruise around the island, they go in and spend two days in St George’s, they cruise around and go into Dockyard, then come back to Hamilton.”
Mr Scott said Dockyard would serve as the point for offloading ship waste, and topping up on fuel and food supplies.
He said the Government was confident that Bermuda was capable of stocking a vessel such as the Viking Orion, which would have a full crew but a passenger capacity of around 450.
“This is why announcements are coming so far in advance, to enable our wholesalers, small business owners and entrepreneurs to get ready.”
While Bermuda’s costs for food and fuel would run considerably higher than other countries, Mr Scott emphasised that Viking was “a luxury brand; their demographic is mainly more mature people, no children”.
He added: “It shows their faith in the Bermuda market.”
Viking announced the plans on Tuesday night, giving prominence to its safety measures with the coronavirus still very much in force.
The Orion comes with UV lighting in the air filtration, to destroy airborne viral particles, and UV robots to sanitise common areas, as well as daily saliva testing for passengers and crew,
According to the Swiss-based company, sailing at half passenger capacity gives the ship ample quarantining space.
Mr Scott said he expected its passenger capacity to “increase a little each week” – and that the ship would be able to contain Covid-19 among passengers who got sick.
“The protocol is out of say 500 passengers, if three test positive, they treat that as an outbreak,” he said. “They would treat it as though everybody was positive.”
Bermuda was second jurisdiction in the world, after Israel with Royal Caribbean, to announce fully vaccinated cruises.
Mr Scott said the Bahamas and Jamaica planned to follow with fully vaccinated cruises.
He conceded that homeporting was a far cry from a typical cruise season.
But he added: “Every call is money in every Bermudian’s pocket, directly or indirectly. The passengers will go from the airport to the ship by taxi or minibus. While on the ship, the food and fuel is from distributors here on the island.”
The Viking cruise out of Bermuda is set for June 15.