A Cayman Islands lawmaker who recently criticised the focus of the country’s tourism efforts questioned whether the government should concentrate more on improving the quality of the island’s cruise ship tourism product.
Opposition MLA Rolston Anglin said the government’s plan to attract high-end stay-over visitors was a ‘fallacy’ as long as it was not backed up by efforts to improve Cayman’s overall appearance. He said the trip from the airport to the Ritz-Carlton hotel doesn’t give travellers an indication that Cayman is a high-end destination.
Cayman Islands Tourism Association President Karie Bergstrom said she was baffled by that last comment.
‘I’m not sure what he means by that,’ Ms Bergstrom said.
‘We certainly have some clean up to do. Everybody needs to be more environmentally responsible and people need to stop throwing their trash out the window.’
Ms Bergstrom said statistics compiled by both the Department of Tourism and private interests show stay-over tourists’ spending makes up much more of the gross domestic product than cruise shippers’ spending.
A 2001 study completed by Deloitte said stay-over visitors contributed $959.2 million to the GDP, while cruise ship visitors contributed an estimated $156.1 million.
While acknowledging those figures are dated, Ms Bergstrom said stay-over tourists spend much more on average.
‘Typically, stay-over visitors spend, say, $210 (per day) compared to maybe $88 by a cruise ship passenger,’ she said.
Ms Bergstrom said the Tourism Association certainly does not discount the importance of cruise ship passengers to Cayman.
‘The tourism product here needs to be a good balance between both cruise and stay-over,’ she said. ‘But without stay-over, who’s going to have a job?’
‘The cruise ship industry provides jobs for a small segment of Caymanians,’ Ms Bergstrom said. ‘The people that have the (tour) boats; the people that work at Boatswain’s Beach, the people that work in the restaurants in town; or the people that work at the retail stores.
‘So what do we do with all the housekeepers, all the people working in food and beverage, all the people working in maintenance and operations? If we didn’t have the stay-over visitors…who’s going to find work for them?’
‘We really had a wake up call after Hurricane Ivan when a lot of people ended up having to be out of work because properties were shut.’
In a telephone interview with the Caymanian Compass Tuesday, Mr. Anglin said his comments in the Legislative Assembly were not meant to indicate the island should support cruise ship tourism while ignoring the importance of stay-over visitors.
The West Bay MLA said he simply doesn’t believe the current government appreciates the full impact cruise tourism has on the Cayman Islands.