The Minster of Tourism Charles Clifford announced in Finance Committee recently that the Government is working toward enforcing a daily maximum of 9,200 cruise ship passengers in compliance with the National Tourism Management Policy.
Capping the number of daily cruise ship visitors was suggested years ago, and in fact the 9,200 figure was mentioned by former Director of Tourism Lania Rittenhouse back in 2003.
No one can discount the important role cruise ship passengers have played in helping Cayman’s economy recover from tourism slumps after 9/11 and Hurricane Ivan.
However, having too many cruise ship passengers is just not good for the tourism economy.
Retailers in town know that business is better when three ships are in port rather than six, probably because when there are fewer people on shore, the environment and service are more conducive to sales.
But beyond just lower sales figures for merchants, everyone suffers when there are too many cruise ship passengers in town, including residents, stay-over tourists and the cruise ship passengers themselves.
Some residents can avoid the congestion by staying away from George Town on heavy cruise ship days, but those who work there have no choice.
Veteran stay-over tourists also have learned to stay away from town on certain days, but this is not the way the bread and butter of our tourism economy should have to schedule their vacations here. In any case, the cruise ship passengers spread out into many tourism areas, meaning that when there are 12,000 or more cruise ship passengers on the island, the beaches, the Turtle Farm, Stingray City and other tourist attractions outside of town are also crowded.
Few tourists – whether they are cruisers or stay-over visitors – have an enjoyable time when attractions are overcrowded, and this does not bode well for their desire to want to come back here or to recommend the Cayman Islands to their friends and family members back home.
Capping the number of cruise ship passengers is one way of ensuring our visitors can enjoy themselves here, but creating more tourism attractions on other parts of the island – as is the goal of the recently announced Go East tourism initiative – will help as well.
Mr. Clifford said the government wants to maintain good relations with the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association, of which most cruise ships that call on Grand Cayman are members. While it is certainly wise to do so, it is also wise to not let the FCCA dictate the daily maximum of cruise ship visitors that come here, and we are glad the Government is actively working with them to enforce the 9,200 daily passenger maximum in the future.