I was extremely disappointed to learn that a team led by Tourism Minister John Maginley left Antigua for Miami to woo Carnival Cruise Line's business. In addition to the minister, President of the Antigua & Barbuda Cruise Tourism Association Nathan Dundas and head of the Antigua Pier Group Conrad Pole made up the team. They met with Ambassador Ian Sweeney in Miami and off they went looking for business.
Under normal circumstances, that would have been welcome news. We cannot have too many tourists stopping at our shores. Considering however that Maginley was attempting to get Carnival to change its mind from pulling the Victory, which according to Dundas was previously booked 'til 2011, the news spoke volumes of persons out of touch.
There was no way Maginley could have performed that miracle, and he, along with Dundas, should have known that. To take up the country’s scarce resources "to go feed grain to a dead horse" was irresponsible of the minister. At least, that’s the way I see it.
Had Maginley simply asked the pertinent questions of the relevant persons, he would have known that his trip was futile. Some may suggest that it was a chance he had to take, as he was between a rock and a hard place. Well, maybe that’s true, but let's take a closer look at the situation.
It seems that Maginley truly believed the fracas between Carnival Victory’s passengers and police officers at the St John’s Police Station over a month ago was the reason the Victory was leaving.
With the Victory pulling out, 80 per cent of Carnival's business left as well.
More than likely, Maginley panicked and took a decision to go to Miami and show Carnival officials that the fracas was an isolated case. Someone should have told Maginley that that’s not the way people do business in the real world.
I do agree that at times businesses are forced to make snap decisions. But really, to pull out a ship that is doing good business because six of its thousands of passengers got into a fight with the police just does not make sense. At least, not to me.
Maybe Maginley felt compelled to act since former minister of tourism Molwin Joseph suggested that the Victory pull-out was over the said fracas. Before Maginley left for Miami, Carnival issued a statement and made it pellucid that the September 4 fracas had nothing to do with its decision. Maginley seemingly did not believe Carnival. I wonder why.
I do believe that Carnival had been considering St Maarten for a reasonable period of time. And when I say reasonable, I believe more than a year. In the real world, most people plan their vacations about a year in advance. To think that Carnival would made a snap decision without proper planning exposes a certain train of thought.
Hopefully, Maginley will see this criticism for what it's worth and with some introspection seek proper advice. You may be familiar with the phrase, never let a bad opportunity go to waste. Well, here is a perfect example for Maginley and his ministry, the entire nation for that matter, to make good out of an extremely hurtful situation.
At minimum, we are set to lose $15 M because of the Victory’s move to St Maarten. We can sit back, lick our wounds and play the blame game for the next year, or we can be energized into replacing the lost funds.
How can we do that? Well, for starters, this is where the government officials, along with the private sector, must decide to work in tandem.
Ian 'Magic' Hughes is an Antiguan Journalist.
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