Cruise berthing a top issue

Berthing for cruise ships is one of the new initiatives the Government is pursuing, and pursing aggressively, Minister for Tourism Charles Clifford told a gathering of tourism partners at the fifth annual tourism conference Wednesday morning.

Attendees at the conference

Attendees at the conference last Wednesday morning.

‘We are currently working with the cruise lines to determine the best location to establish these facilities and will keep you updated on the progress,’ he told the conference at the Westin Hotel.

Mr. Clifford outlined some of the long term benefits of berthing to be: a longer time onshore for guests, bringing economic benefits; an easier disembarkation/embarkation process, allowing guests flexibility and safety.

Mr. Clifford also noted that the new cruise port development will provide a better visitor experience and represents evidence of the Government’s commitment to better management of cruise arrivals. Funding is also being redirected to Spotts, he said, ‘so that the country doesn’t have to lose all revenue during the days when inclement weather prevents access to the George Town harbour’.

Another Government commitment is to better disperse cruise visitors around the island. He said this will ‘reduce the congestion in central George Town and on the West Bay Road and at the same time move some of the economic benefits from cruise tourism into the Eastern Districts of Bodden Town, East End and North Side’.

The Ministry and Department of Tourism have worked together to manage future arrival schedules to avoid overcrowding on any given day, he said.

With regard to room stock, Minister Clifford said projections for December show that 80 per cent of guest rooms will be ready for business and for March 2006 the projection is 93 per cent.

‘This is an incredible number and is testament to the determination, the resolve to rebuild and the confidence in the future, and it most certainly means that we are back in business,’ he said.

Mr. Clifford affirmed the Government’s support for the national airline Cayman Airways and its policy to make that relationship even stronger.

The airport redevelopment begins in 2006 and will be done in phases so the facility can remain operational during the entire redevelopment.

Mr. Clifford spoke about the importance of renewing products and services to make sure they remain enticing.

He said the Tourism Authority should become a reality in July 2007. ‘The government understands that, today, the Cayman Islands’ product is almost completely owned by the private sector and marketed by the Department of Tourism. For this partnership to flourish there must be an increased operational partnership as well and this is what the transition to an authority will bring’. This will give the private sector more say in policy making decisions, he said.

Mr. Clifford also encouraged all those who had pushed away from the table in frustration with tourism management policies of the past to come back to it.

‘I encourage you to reconnect and in so doing to bring your ideas back to the table where they may be fused with others. We cannot afford to be fractured or to allow past inefficiencies and disappointments to compromise our strength in unity,’ he said.

The conference continues today.

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