After 24 years in cruise sector, William Tatham takes up early retirement
Sees bright future for cruise industry
William Tatham assumed the position of director of cruise shipping with the Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB) in 1998 and after four years was shifted to the Port Authority of Jamaica (PAJ) as vice-president in charge of cruise shipping.
At the end of December last year, he opted for early retirement after two decades with the PAJ and 24 years overall in serving Jamaica’s cruise industry, stepping back from Jamaica’s leading foreign income earning sector with little or no fanfare.
While his quiet departure might not befit the importance of his stewardship, he is satisfied with his contribution. With his usual humility, he refused to accept any achievement as his own, sharing instead all the credit with the PAJ and to the industry itself.
“It was a mixture of satisfaction, rewards, and challenges,” he summed up in an interview with The Gleaner.
Shortly after taking up his role at JTB, Tatham initiated discussions aimed at convincing the government to give the tourism head tax to the PAJ to develop the cruise industry. This was agreed to in 2001.
“I can’t take all the credit for that, (former tourism minister) Wykeham McNeill deserves some credit, the ministers of the day, the minister of transport, the minister of finance, everyone; everybody saw the reason for it,” Tatham said.
“There are lots of accomplishments but it’s not my accomplishments, it’s the industry’s and the Port Authority’s accomplishments. I think the bigger projects were like Falmouth getting in partnership with Royal Caribbean and building the port of Falmouth which was the first of its kind in the world actually. And then, of course, Port Royal which had a lot of challenges, but I think we overcame those and we were able to develop there as well.”
Tatham described his 24 years in cruise shipping as a period that gave him a lot of gratification as being able to develop ports was “incredibly satisfying” though “very challenging”.
The COVID-19 pandemic shut down the cruise sector worldwide and it took some time for Jamaica to recover but it wasn’t easy.
“Bringing back the ships was probably the most difficult thing I’ve ever dealt with and if it wasn’t for a few people within the Port Authority, Col Johnson and Dr Dawkins-Wright, I’m not sure we would have been able to pull it off. It’s a mix, a lot of satisfaction, a lot of rewards and a lot of challenges.”
But his greatest satisfaction is that the industry bounced back and now he sees good times ahead.
“I do believe the future of the cruise industry is bright,” Tatham shared.
“We still have a number of challenges, harassment being number one, that has been a big issue for many years; and as a country, if we’re able to deal with that there’s no stopping the development.”
Tatham said he has stepped back from tourism and is currently focusing on a small, private project with his family and will be so engaged for the next year or two.