Sociology & Tourism lecturers Linde van Bets and Michiel Lamers from Wageningen University have recently published a paper about cruise tourism mobilities, entitled Governing cruise tourism at Bonaire: a networks and flows approach in the journal of Mobilities.
Bonaire’s marine ecosystem is well preserved and hosts one of the oldest marine protected areas in the Caribbean (since 1979). However, recently Bonaire’s marine ecosystem is exposed to increasing numbers of cruise ships and tourists, an important sector on which the island’s economy is floating. Cruise tourism at Bonaire is largely influenced by the competitive Caribbean cruise market, where powerful cruise companies, represented at the Florida Caribbean Cruise Association (FCCA), play divide and rule among small islands like Bonaire, Aruba and Curacao, eager for cruise tourism income. In this paper we analyse how two interconnected flows of cruise ships and passengers are governed by local and transnational governance networks, by applying the concept of marine community.
Bonaire advocated its position as coastal destination by upgrading its membership to the transnational FCCA network in exchange for more networking and negotiating opportunities, sometimes based on weakening regulations, cheap deals or exemptions or delays for nature fees. This turned out quite successful as Bonaire made agreements with some important cruise lines, which will transform the cruise season from six months to all year round. However, to accommodate more cruise tourism at Bonaire, more facilities and infrastructure need to be developed, with potential social and environmental impacts. We will illustrate this for both the flows of cruise ships and tourists.
Regarding the cruise ship flow, the growing need for berthing space and tourist facilities in the small port of Bonaire compromises space available to cargo ships. Currently the port for cargo ships is close to the city centre. If due to the visitation of cruise ships cargo containers need to be stored further away, this will result in additional transportation costs and raises the prices of consumer goods, both for cruise passengers as well as for local inhabitants.