Today’s Editorial January 12: Cruise improvements examined

Grand Cayman has come a long way since the days of one cruise ship in George Town Harbour only on Thursdays.

Back then the ships were smaller and held fewer people.

Still, those of us living here scheduled our days to visit downtown George Town around Thursdays, leaving the shops to the cruise tourists.

Today we’re bombarded almost daily with bigger ships carrying more people.

Cruise tourism has become a major player in our economic survival.

To that end Tourism Minister Charles Clifford and those in the tourism industry are constantly keeping their finger on the pulse of cruise ship tourism.

Grand Cayman is not alone in its struggle to provide a premium tourism product while ensuring proper road capacities, traffic flows and aesthetically pleasing spaces to meander.

Most small islands that cater to any kind of tourism are faced with scarce amounts of land and buildings that abut roadways.

Congestion around port areas is a challenge not only here, but in every other cruise destination.

And those countries that care – like the Cayman Islands – are always looking at ways to make the cruise tourism experience pleasant for our visitors and residents.

Members of the American Association of Port Authorities were here this week to put their heads together to find solutions to cruise tourism problems.

We’re fortunate in that the Caribbean has been and continues to be the destination of choice for cruisers.

They aren’t going away, so we must work to find ways to accommodate them and us.

One of those ways is the berthing project, which, once complete, will enhance the experience of cruise guests.

Berthing will allow visitors to spend more time on our island, spending money in our shops and restaurants and taking part in our activities.

The numbers show our dependency on cruise tourism and the need to constantly strive to improve our product and our visitors’ experience.

Nearly 2 million passengers and crew disembarked ships in the Cayman Islands in 2005-2006. The visits as well as additional expenditures from the cruise lines brought US$179.7 million in tourism expenditures that year. The industry contributed to 3,705 jobs here and $66 million in wage income.

Those are some hefty numbers that deserve our attention.