The Falkland Islands government and tourist industry admit to being confused and thus unable to comment in any great detail on the recent decision, apparently, by the Argentine provincial Government of Tierra del Fuego, turning away from Ushuaia two British flagged cruise ships earlier this week.
Mike Summers, who as Member of the Islands Legislative Assembly holds the Tourism portfolio, said on Thursday that the Falklands Government had been unable to establish where the decision to bar the vessels originated, and whether it had received national approval from the Cristina Fernandez administration.
“If it is a local issue” he said, “we will have to wait and see what their intentions are, but if it is a national issue then we will have to consider further.”
There was some speculation in the Islands on Wednesday that the last minute decision by the Veendam, another Holland America vessel, to cancel it’s Stanley visit might have been motivated by the action taken against its’ sister ships in Ushuaia.
However, Paul Trowell, General Manager of the Tourism Board, said that there was no evidence to suggest that.
“This has happened before with the Veendam. They get caught in bad weather sometimes – it happens.” Being a slower ship than some others, a spell of bad weather can lead them to cancel ports to avoid getting out of schedule.
Several years ago another ship, the Amsterdam, got caught in bad weather in Stanley and many hundreds of passengers were stranded in the town overnight. Residents accommodated all passengers but it has left some ships nervous of getting into that situation.
Trowell stated that as a man of the tourism industry, he felt sorry for the operators and tour providers in Ushuaia who have lost out on a lot of income in the interests of a politically motivated decision.
He added that the industry had forecast a 16% increase in cruise ship passengers landing in the Islands compared to last year but that cancels due to bad weather, has led to season taking very similar to last year.
“This hasn’t really affected us” said Trowell. “We will try and find out the facts and keep communicating with cruise companies for their plans, but at this point, from an industry point-of-view, we don’t have much to say about it.”
By Janet Roberston – SeAledPR - Stanley