BASSETERRE, ST. KITTS, August 25, 2021 (MMS-SKN) — Basseterre’s Port Zante is no ordinary cruise passenger port, having been described by the authoritative TripAdvisor as “one of the newer and upscale cruise ports in the Caribbean that cruise ships stop at,” and one that became a marquee port two years in a row for amassing over a million cruise passengers to the country’s shores.

PM Dr the Hon Timothy Harris at the press conference. At the head table are the Hon Lindsay Grant, the Hon Akilah Byron-Nisbett, the Hon Wendy Phipps, the Hon Eugene Hamilton, and (partly hidden) the Hon Vincent Byron Jr.

But as a result of the global coronavirus pandemic, cruise tourism worldwide almost ground to a halt. As the industry is showing strong signs of picking up, the Government of St. Kitts and Nevis is all out to ensure that Port Zante returns to its former glory and that it is positioned to take its rightful place in the global cruise tourism industry.

“At our Cabinet meeting on Monday, August 16th we took a decision to spur cruise tourism by making a major concession to allow vaccinated cruise passengers to enter the Federation utilising the antigen tests,” said Prime Minister Dr the Hon Timothy Harris at his monthly press conference held on Tuesday August 24 at the NEMA conference room in Lime Kiln.

The Honourable Prime Minister however advised that in making that decision they took a number of factors into consideration. One of the factors was that once visitors are fully vaccinated, the risk of their transmitting the virus to the people here is significantly reduced.

Present at the press conference included the Minister of Tourism the Hon Lindsay Grant, and the Minister of Health the Hon Akilah Byron-Nisbett.

“The strong roll-out of our vaccination programme has seen St. Kitts and Nevis emerge with over 62 percent of the adult population fully vaccinated – this is one of the highest in the hemisphere – and over 73 percent having taken at least their first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine,” noted Dr Harris. “This significant higher level of vaccination provides a further level of protection against the virus. Of course we must never become complacent or drop our guard.”

He further noted that there will be coordinated efforts to manage cruise visits through bubble arrangements which will result in a safe corridor of containment, and added that with the advent of the Pfizer vaccine even more persons can be, and will be, protected.

“The opening up of cruise tourism will put thousands of persons back to work, increasing income flows and business activity,” said Prime Minister Harris. “We took note that for 17 months a large number of persons like taxi operators, and some employees at duty free shops at Port Zante and elsewhere have been without meaningful work. A brighter future now awaits them. They however should minimise their risks by getting vaccinated and observing all protocols.”

With the opening up of the cruise sector, the heavy dependence of state-owned enterprises SCASPA and Solid Waste on budgetary support from the Federal Government will be lessened as they will receive their own steady inflows from cruise business. For 2020 and 2021 the government supported these entities to the tune of $12.4 million.

Flashback to cruise tourism glory days at Port Zante: Top pictures show action on Thursday February 27, 2020 and bottom pictures depict action in Port Zante on Tuesday March 10, 2020.

“The opening up of the sector will safeguard our heavy investments in cruise tourism and consolidate the gains so carefully built up over six years by my administration,” said the Prime Minister. “The success of this is that St. Kitts and Nevis became a marquee port two years in a row, amassing over one million cruise passengers to our shores.”

He added: “We thank all the stakeholders and the Ministry of Tourism led by the Hon Lindsay Grant. St. Kitts and Nevis recorded the fastest growth in cruise tourism in the region. We will build on this even as we diversify around tourism and increase our stay over arrivals, thereby building a stronger and more resilient economy.”

Also present at the press conference were Federal Cabinet Ministers the Hon Eugene Hamilton, the Hon Jonel Powell, the Hon Eric Evelyn, the Hon Wendy Phipps, and the Hon Vincent Byron Jr.