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Gay cruises may
be warned to steer clear of Dominica

Gay cruises may
be warned to steer clear of Dominica

Dominica prime minister Roosevelt Skerrit said Thursday he will meet with evangelicals in the Carribean island nation who are seeking restrictions on gay cruises, which have drawn some protests elsewhere in the Caribbean. Dominica has no restrictions on the tours, but Skerrit told the Associated Press that he will meet soon with the Evangelical Association to outline the government's position on gay cruises stopping at the island.

''I will make a statement on the issue after my meeting with the members of the Evangelical Association,'' he said.

Bill Daniel, the group's president, said Skerrit had not contacted him to schedule a meeting--which the association had demanded. ''We want the government to ensure that gay tourists do not come to the island and conduct themselves in any immoral way,'' he said, adding that he did not want Dominica portrayed ''as a gay tourist destination.''

Dominica, a lush island of mountains and waterfalls that bills itself as the ''nature island of the Caribbean'' and where parts of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies were filmed, relies heavily on tourism revenues, as do many other countries in the region.

One of the poorest countries in the Caribbean, Dominica attracted 250,230 tourists over the first six months of the year--an increase of roughly 50,000 from the same period last year, according to the trade ministry. Tourism officials have sought an increase in cruise calls to boost tourism to Dominica, and they have tried to distance themselves from the evangelicals' position.

''We don't have any problem with gay cruises coming to Dominica,'' said Francisco Esprit, a board member of the Dominica Taxi Association. ''We see it as part of the business, and we are yet to receive any negative comments from our members about gay tourism.''

At least one gay cruise has stopped in Dominica. No gay cruises are scheduled to stop at the island through early next year, said Peter George, head of shipping at H.H.V. Whitchurch and Company, the agent for cruise ships stopping in Dominica.

Despite their image as a sun-and-surf playground, many Caribbean islands remain socially conservative. Protesters held a small demonstration against a gay cruise stopping in February in the Cayman Islands, which refused in 1998 to allow a gay cruise to dock. The U.K. territory adopted a nondiscrimination policy in 2001 that bars it from blocking gay cruises.

A cruise ship carrying lesbians that docked in the Bahamas was met by protesters in 1998. (AP)

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