Tourism industry at risk

The cruise industry has potentially threatened the quality of the tourism industry, Cayman Islands Tourism Association past president Rod McDowell warned Wednesday.

‘The growth of the number of cruise visitors over the last few years has been both spectacular and reckless at the same time.

‘It is irresponsible to allow in excess of 2 million passengers to disembark when Grand Cayman is simply not properly prepared for the onslaught,’ he said.

Mr. McDowell used his speech at the Cruise Tourism in the Cayman Islands luncheon to sound the note of warning.

‘As the cruise industry benefits Cayman so does it potentially threaten the quality of the entire tourism industry built over the last 40 years,’ he said.

Mr. McDowell said the impact on the island’s infrastructure and delicate environment was enormous.

‘Cruise ship visitors should not exceed what the infrastructure can accommodate in a way that positively showcases the island. This includes dock facilities for tendering, roads, restroom facilities and more,’ he told the luncheon.

‘Products such as our world famous Stingray City are threatened and abused to the point that they are no longer a great experience to promote, but an unmanaged and chaotic mass exposure often producing a negative experience rather than a positive one,’ he said.

The tourism association received regular feedback from many repeat stay-over visitors about the ‘horrid traffic congestion and deterioration of attractions and downtown because of the massive number of people arriving on the island on days where the number of ships scheduled is in excess of eight with a maximum capacity over 20,000 people that may wish to come ashore,’ said Mr. McDowell.

‘The same comment is even more strongly voiced by residents who see their quality of island living being compromised and threatened,’ he added.

‘The industry must be managed better. There simply is a limit to the number of visitors we can accommodate and provide a positive experience,’ Mr. McDowell told the luncheon.

He said the responsibility for this management had to come from three groups – the private sector, government and the cruise lines.

‘The Cayman Islands are a desired destination by all cruise lines. We are and have been an extremely convenient, profitable and preferred stop for many years.

‘As such government is in a strong position to manage and dictate the needs of the islands for their betterment rather than detriment,’ he said.

‘Finally, the cruise lines have a moral responsibility to assist both the Cayman Islands government and private sector in achieving the goal of sustainable tourism and the protection of the attractions the islands have to offer,’ said Mr. McDowell.

CITA suggested the formation of a cruise committee, equally represented by all three groups, to discuss and plan for the real problems being encountered, he added.

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