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Cruise ship revenue hits all-time high

Be our guest: The Norwegian Gem arrives at Dockyard earlier this year (File photograph)

Cruise ship passenger revenue has rocketed to an all-time high this year, breaking the $200 million barrier for the first time in the island’s history.

Total economic impact from the 2023 cruise-ship season is expected to come in at $221 million — up on last year’s figure of $154 million.

The number also exceeds receipts taken in the pre-pandemic years of 2018 and 2019, when the totals were $148 million and $170 million, respectively.

The record-breaking figure could have been higher were it not for a busy hurricane season, during which scores of scheduled cruise ship arrivals were cancelled at the last minute.

Wayne Furbert, the Minister of Transport, highlighted the figures as proof that the island had bounced back from the Covid-19 torpor of 2020 and 2021, when cruise ships were barred from entry to Bermuda.

Mr Furbert added that tweaks to the cruise ship tax structure had opened up fresh sources of revenue without deterring cruise lines from calling in on the island.

And he said that the island was now reaping the rewards of investment in cruise ship infrastructure implemented by the Progressive Labour Party government more than a decade ago.

According to the latest figures, the island has played host to 539,127 cruise ship passengers this year, with an associated revenue forecast of $168.7 million in passenger and crew spending.

This includes an estimated $24.7 million in passenger taxes, $10.7 million in transport infrastructure taxes, $6.9 million in visitor fees and $10.4 million in cruise ship port expenses.

According to Mr Furbert, the cumulative economic impact is estimated at $221.5 million dollars for the year.

He added that, with most cruise visits to the island operating at close to 100 per cent capacity, the business had renewed its faith in the island as a top destination.

Last night, Mr Furbert said: “The cruise ship season in the Bermuda has proven to be remarkably resilient and continues to thrive.

“Bermuda, renowned for its stunning beauty and warm hospitality, has managed to adapt and recover, showcasing its commitment to providing an exceptional cruise experience for visitors.”

Mr Furbert said that his team had been able to bolster the number of cruise ship arrivals by encouraging smaller companies to make one-off visits in addition to regular, mega-ship visitors, and also to entice liners here during the off-season.

He said: “The two major cruise lines that we deal with are RCL and Norwegian, who serve as the primary drivers of cruise visits to our destination.

“But during the intervals between the visits of our two primary partners, a multitude of other cruise brands made port calls in Bermuda, such as Carnival Cruise Lines, Disney Cruise Lines, Scenic Luxury Cruises, Silver Sea Cruises, Saga Cruises, Star Cruises and Azamara Cruises.

“This upswing in both the number of occasional callers and passenger spending, underscores the success of our initiatives to promote Bermuda as a premier cruise destination throughout the year.”

Referring to tax changes that had boosted cruise ship revenue in recent years, Mr Furbert said: “In 2019, the Cabin Tax was phased out. In its place, a Visitor Fee of $16 per person was introduced and designated to Bermuda Tourism Authority.

“Additionally, the Transport Infrastructure Tax at a rate of $25 was introduced. Furthermore, the Passenger Tax for ships berthing at Dockyard was elevated to $25 per person.

“There's no doubt that one of the major reasons for the increase in economic impact within the cruise industry has to do with the increase in passenger tax that we were able to work with the cruise industry to obtain in 2019, including an infrastructure tax and a visitors fee.”

Noting that there had been 37 cruise ship cancellations this year, the minister said: “It is no secret that the cruise ship visits to our region were impacted by an unprecedented hurricane season.

“The frequency and proximity of hurricanes to our area directly affected the planned cruise itineraries, causing disruption to the anticipated schedule of cruise ships.

“We are now benefiting from the vision that premier Ewart Brown had back in 2009.

“If we had not opened up Dockyard and made the investment and only relied on the City of Hamilton, we would not have the cruise ships that we currently have. The investment that the government made back then is now reaping benefits.

“Through dedicated efforts, Bermuda has not only weathered the storms but also emerged stronger, reaffirming its status as a premier cruise destination.

“As we move forward, it is imperative to remain vigilant, ensuring the safety and satisfaction of all cruise passengers, while further enhancing Bermuda’s reputation as a remarkable and enduring cruise destination.”

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Published December 11, 2023 at 8:28 am (Updated December 11, 2023 at 9:23 pm)

Cruise ship revenue hits all-time high

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