It’s said that one never gets a second chance to make a first impression. Therefore, the friendly professionals affiliated with one operation in Barbados make the most of each chance interaction with visitors in an effort to ensure they not only have an outstanding first impression, but also a fabulous final impression that helps prompt the want to return.
Each year, hundreds of thousands of tourists arrive in Barbados by way of cruise ships. For passengers, this is an exciting opportunity to travel ashore, and if only for a brief duration, delight in the various sights, sounds, shopping or dining venues that uniquely nuance this island nation. For the vast majority of such tourists, the very first impression of Barbados, as well as what will be their final impression before returning to the ship is all formed from the interactions with locals and operations occurring within the Bridgetown Cruise Terminal. As Chief Executive Officer Geoffrey Roach says, “When you welcome someone into your home, you want to make them feel as comfortable as possible. That’s how we approach our work at the terminal. Our focus is customer service … we want tourists to be comfortable, excited about being here and we do anything we can think of to enhance the experience for visitors so that their memories of Barbados are positive.”
That goal is made operable by a number of small details that combine to offer major benefits; from signage in multiple languages to communicatively cater to the international array of visitors to the free Wi-Fi service that enables connectivity with loved ones far away or access to information over the Internet. The terminal even provides complimentary wheelchairs for any visitor hindered by physical impairments or mobility issues. “Our guests should have access to all Barbados has to offer, and if they need a wheelchair in order to better get around, we’re happy to provide that … we don’t want to overlook anything when it comes to helping our guests,” says Roach.
Ops & Opportunities
To be sure, the Bridgetown Cruise Terminal operations not only serve as the conduit from which tourists emerge to explore the natural beauty of Barbados, they also provide a significant function in bolstering the local economy. While the terminal may only directly employ a dozen personnel (what Roach describes as his own “special forces unit”) there are some 200 other people who are employed by the various businesses and concessions located on site. The Bridgetown Cruise Terminal comprises more than 60,000 square feet of space, of which 20,000 square feet is allocated to more than two dozen duty-free shops featuring inventories that include exquisite jewelry, perfumes, fine linen, crystal & china, cameras and consumer electronics, as well as some of the most flavorful rum that can be found anywhere in the world. The site also accommodates a variety of other vendors in local arts and crafts that specialize in souvenirs unique to Barbados Culture. Additional space is allotted for offices essential to Customs & Immigration, Port Operations, Postal Service, and work of the Barbados Tourism Authority, which Roach says is one of the busiest places in the terminal. The terminal especially comes to life in late November during the national festival, and again during the Christmas Holiday, when musical concerts, performers, food vendors and special events all come together at the terminal to make it an even more happening as a hub in the celebration of Caribbean culture. The fact remains, however, throughout any given week, the terminal exists as one of the busiest places in Barbados. In 2011, this terminal facilitated the flow of more than 726,000 visitors, a bit of a dip from the more than 812,000 that visited in 2004, a decline Roach attributes to impacts associated with the economic recession. This year, however, numbers reflect increasing visitation and that’s a good sign for as Roach says, “Cruise, tourism is a major contributing factor to the strength of the local economy. The terminal supports many different shops and service operators on our site, but we also provide the passage to which visitors go on to connect with other businesses and service providers in Barbados.”
Roach says the burdens of duty have been lightened by having the highest quality facilities, a dedicated and well-trained staff and efficient management systems. The efficiency in management systems are recognized by Operations Director Pansy Murray who credits “planning, and more planning” as part of the terminal’s success. Consistent focus on training, communication with tenants and test drills to monitor and measure performance issues in the range of events that could be encountered are part of the operational dictates. “We look at risk management and disaster recovery, communicate regularly with the port and talk with our tenants. Whether it is some natural disaster or in the event of a fire, we train all staff in how to use fire extinguishers, safety equipment, so they can learn what we can do to bring it under control. We push training, evacuation planning and more,” says Murray. Though she gratefully acknowledges there have been no major recent trials, that wasn’t the case a few years ago when Hurricane Ivan swept past the island. Fortunately, as Murray says, “We had all the people in place … we knew just who to call and staff came in to help clean-up… and we worked through the night, but got everything back in place in one day and were ready for the cruise ship that docked early the next morning … our recovery plan worked that day,” says Murray.
Partners in Progress
Since its official opening in 1994, the Bridgetown Cruise Terminal has remained collaboration between the private sector and the government. The government has 30% interest, two businesses each have 20% interest and the remaining interest benefits the general public. In this same spirit of collaboration, Barbados will soon see the development of entirely new infrastructure that poses even more benefits to the local economy in terms of enhancing tourism, port operations and further support for local business.
Through a partnership between Barbados Port, Royal Caribbean Cruise and SMI Infrastructure Solutions, more than $300 million has been allocated to create a new facility at a location known as Sugar Point, also in Bridgetown. At present, the cruise terminal functions are closely clustered with operations ongoing at the Barbados Port. This new facility is being designed to separate cruise and cargo activities, but will additionally allow for increased capacity to berth the mega-liners, the largest of cruise ships traversing the seas. The project is being completed in two phases which ultimately includes construction of two new cruise piers, arrival and departure facilities and new parking spaces, but more remarkably, will additionally involve the reclaiming of some 15 acres of land from the sea. Businesses will have more than 100,000 square-feet of opportunity in commercial space.
“It’s a tremendous project with potential to bring a different stamp of life and quality to Barbados … because of the reclaimed area, passengers will have a much different view of the island as they arrive, but residents will see something much different as they look out to the seascape too,” says Roach. Kevin Macintosh, the CEO of the Engineering Firm of Baird & Associates reports that Sugar Point will be a “world-class” facility, designed to withstand impacts from weather events as well as rising waters levels associated with global climate change.
Preparations for the new terminal have already begun with studies of the seabed, but over the next year, there will be demolition of old infrastructure, continuous dredging and relocation of a coral reef among the plans. Roach says that work will occur in such a way as to minimize impact on current operations at the Bridgetown Cruise Terminal.
“We don’t think it will interfere with all the work that goes on here … there will be noise from the dredging and driving piles, and you can’t have development of this size without some minor interruptions, but we don’t think it will affect our visitors,” says Roach.
Like many in Barbados, Roach is excited about the opportunities that will be realized by the new facility and its enhanced ability to accommodate visitors from the largest of manufactured ocean liners. As Roach says, “This allows us to become another destination of itinerary, larger vessels means a larger numbers of people coming to visit Barbados … that’s good for everyone.”
For more information, please visit their website at Bridgetown Cruise Terminal
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