"The Caribbean has a lot to do," says Dr Fritz Pinnock, executive director of the Caribbean Maritime Institute (CMI). He was making reference to the topic of caribbean cruise tourism.
His statement is based on research conducted for his book, Caribbean Cruise Tourism: Power Relations Among Stakeholders: The Future of Cruise Tourism in the Caribbean. The book emerged from Pinnock's PhD thesis and research studies that he began in 2005.
More than 750 surveys were conducted in over 11 islands including Jamaica, St Kitts, St Lucia, The Bahamas, Bermuda, Puerto Rico, and Florida.
The book, he says, addresses two main issues. "The first is the anomaly that the Caribbean accounts for over 50 per cent of the world's market share of cruise ship passenger deployment, but generates less than five per cent of the industry's revenue while imposing significant financial and environmental costs on a number of Caribbean nations. The central finding is that the Caribbean cruise industry operates almost entirely for the benefit of the cruise lines. The industry is vertically integrated and has a high level of value-capture among the stakeholder chain."
The second issue addressed in the book, Pinnock says, is that "cruise lines are being absorbed in the process of industry consolidation, so over 80 per cent of the global industry market share is concentrated in the hands of just three cruise companies: Royal Caribbean Cruise Line, Carnival Cruise Lines, and Norwegian Cruise Lines. This has created an acute imbalance of power as these three companies are effectively able to dictate terms to the small Caribbean nations on the cruise itinerary".
Pinnock is quick to point out that the intent is not to highlight the good or bad players in the industry, but rather "to take an in-depth look at how the Caribbean can better position itself to get greater rewards from the cruise industry".
With mega cruise ships now rivalling the amenities available on land, Pinnock opines that the islands will need to provide more than sun, sea, and sand.
"I'm not blaming them (cruise lines). I'm saying that in the Caribbean, we need to wake up to a new reality. We need a holistic view - we need to repackage our culture, our food, and our music. We're not just a beach," Pinnock said.
He adds that by having 50 per cent of the market share means we have 50 per cent of the environmental damage, but less than five per cent of the gross revenues. That alone, he says, points to the imbalance in the industry.
Pinnock noted that the Caribbean could learn from other regions that have done better. Cruise Baltic in Northern Europe, he said, is one such region that has been successful at cruise tourism.
"The countries of the Baltic Sea region have joined forces to create a cruise option with fully integrated operations between ports and cities," Pinnock pointed out, adding that "the Caribbean could benefit from this model."
"We need to look at value instead of just economics. The social costs, the economic costs, and the environmental costs must all be considered. We have to take a more responsible approach to cruising," Pinnock added.
The book, he explained, should be read by all stakeholders in the cruise industry as well as by persons in academia and by ordinary citizens.
However, he firmly believes that decision and policymakers in Government should read it to see where the weaknesses are and how they can better position themselves to gain more from cruising.
Despite the anomalies, Pinnock concludes that the Caribbean needs more cruising, but also needs more benefits from the industry.
The book is published by German publisher LAP LAMBERT Academic Publishing, and is available on Amazon.