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#2697: Haiti's part in cruise industry (fwd)

From: Greg Chamberlain <GregChamberlain@compuserve.com>

    SAN JUAN, Mar 4 (AP) -- Cruising and the Caribbean form a marriage of
convenience: Fourteen cruise lines take advantage of the islands'
palm-tipped shores, quaint colonial towns and balmy trade winds.
   The Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association said cruise lines and
passengers spent about $2.3 billion in the region in 1995, generating more
than 48,000 jobs. Wages and salaries came to $700 million.
   The association is conducting another study to update those figures.
   More than 12 million cruise passenger visits were recorded in the
Caribbean in 1998, according to the Barbados-based Caribbean Tourism
Organization. Passengers spent an estimated $105 million in the Bahamas and
$386 million in the U.S. Virgin Islands, it said.
   The cruise trip association estimated the business resulted in 1995
expenditures of $302 million for the Bahamas, $301 million for Puerto Rico
and $578 million for St. Thomas.
   In impoverished Haiti, Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines recently invested
$10 million in the north-coast village of Labadee, building a school and
delivering drinking water. Some 250,000 tourists visited the site last
   "It has injected a lot of money -- and well-being -- into the
community," said Alex Lafond, director of the government tourism office in
Haiti, the Western Hemisphere's poorest nation.
   With so much at stake, island governments compete for cruise visits, not
only on behalf of local vendors but for suppliers of water, food and other
items. Purchases can total hundreds of thousands of dollars per visit. St.
Maarten is investing $62 million to improve port facilities.
   Competition for passenger business extends to the ships themselves,
where liquor, jewelry and other items sold by local merchants can also be
found on board at competitive prices.
   "They have everything on the cruise ships now. Everything is duty-free,"
said Christine Hilty, whose tony Violette Boutique in St. Croix sells
perfumes and cosmetics. "It's impacted my business."
   More than 3,000 nationals from Haiti, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago
work on cruise ships, said Frances Mungroo of Trinidad's Seamen and
Waterfront Workers Union. Carnival Cruise Lines alone employs roughly 1,300
people from the region on its ships.
   With many cruise lines recruiting personnel from Asia, eastern Europe
and elsewhere, Mungroo would like to see more hiring in the Caribbean. "If
we have 65-70 percent of the ships here, it would do wonders for our youth
with even 25 percent of the jobs," he said.