A recent announcement by Minister of Infrastructure, Hon Ian Patches Liburd that a separate arrivals hall is to be constructed to accommodate passengers disembarking from ships berth at the second cruise pier, is not only a waste of taxpayers’ money, but could also generate a tremendous amount of business uncertainty and worry among stakeholders, especially Port Zante merchants.
“With only a single arrivals hall, high quality stores with World Class brands would continue to benefit from their prime spot locations, but where they also pay higher real estate rentals and the largest amounts of 6% Custom Duties to the Government year after year,” one merchant has stated.
“Sadly, the previously unplanned second arrivals hall now threatens the business success of most of the merchants, and has created uncertainty and potential confusion among them,” said the merchant, who wished to remain anonymous for fear of victimisation.
He noted that he is unaware of anywhere else in the region where there are more than one cruise port entry point at one location.
“Such a standard has prevailed for both economic and security reasons. But it seems that this Government is blinded to what makes good strategic sense for St Kitts cruise tourism,” he said pointing out that construction of an additional entrance to Port Zante “is likely to kill the present successful structure for retail and small informal tours dispatching in St. Kitts.”
“When the berthing of ships become split on the two piers, the flow of passengers through two separate arrivals halls will completely breakup the customer flow into the less productive shopping and dispatching directions,” he said, predicting “there is no way property owners and tenant businesses can sustain year round expenses with a split of the flow of passengers.”
He is further of the view that a large percentage of the merchants involved are likely to be driven into losses, and ultimately out of business.
An informed stakeholder noted that St. Kitts now has a very slow six-month off season and by the looks of things next summer will also be really bad.
The second cruise ship pier is to become operational in October, but the recent passage of Tropical Storm Karen, could result in a delay, although there has been no official statement from the St Christopher Air and Sea Ports Authority (SCASPA) on how the grounding of the American Bridge barges will affect the total completion of the second pier.
Scheduled to cost EC$86.4 million under the then governing St Kitts-Nevis Labour Party administration, the cost of the cruise ship pier ballooned to a whopping EC$129.6 million price tag – EC$43.2 million more under the Timothy Harris-led Team Unity Government.