Families on the inaugural Nickelodeon Family Cruise with Royal Caribbean were treated to plenty of fun and culture at the Royal Watler Cruise Terminal Wednesday.
The Department of Tourism and its private sector tourism partners made a very special effort to showcase what the island has to offer to the families, seen as a key target group for Cayman Islands tourism.
The cruise terminal was buzzing with local music, craft, food displays and information booths.
One of the aims was to showcase Cayman’s culture to encourage these visitors to return to Cayman’s shores in future.
‘It’s family centric, the type of event that has been put on,’ explained Chief Officer with the Ministry of Tourism Gloria McField-Nixon. ‘The idea is that we always try to turn any cruise visitor into a repeat customer, but because this cruise is made up entirely of families we see the opportunity here as being particularly important for us as families are a very important target group,’ she said.
Welcome back cards were being distributed in order to bring awareness to Cayman Islands vacation events and promotions so visitors may choose to return again.
In fact, the day was something of a rebirth of the cruise conversion programme that had previously fallen by the wayside.
‘We launched a cruise conversion programme in approximately 2003 and we were in the research phase of it. The progress was impacted by Hurricane Ivan and we are now in the process of re-launching that programme,’ said Ms McField-Nixon. ‘This is almost a rebirth of [it] but is now even more targeted to the type of visitors, such as families getting off the Nickelodeon cruise.’
The Cayman Islands is already partnering with Nickelodeon, as cartoon character ‘Diego’ is the name behind the summer sea school for children visiting the Cayman Islands during the Summer Splash promotion. Sea school is held at Boatswain’s Beach and Pedro St. James.
The Nickelodeon inaugural trip is the only one scheduled while the company assesses the interest shown.
Cayman is one of four ports of call on the cruise, which also features Cozumel, Ocho Rios and Royal Caribbean’s private island.
Ms McField-Nixon explained how Nickelodeon pairs well with the Cayman Islands brand.
‘We both focus heavily on families and share those values and we also appreciate the power of the young consumer. When we first began a relationship with Nickelodeon a couple of years back [with the Cayman Islands Seaschool with SpongeBob Squarepants] we had a resounding response from the private sector who saw that individuals were planning to travel to the Cayman Islands largely because of the ‘nag’ factor of the children having seen the promotions and having identified so heavily with them.
‘And now we have an opportunity with what we believe to be even a closer tie in with the Diego character who is all about exploration and who is part of our sea school programme and again we’re able to not only entertain children who are coming here but also to educate them about our marine environment.’
Ms McField-Nixon said the private sector has had a strong response from the Summer Splash programme.
Many members of the private sector turned out to showcase wares and to offer information and advice to customers, including a booth set up by the Cayman Islands Tourism Assocition and the Association for the Advancement of Cruise Tourism.
Ms McField-Nixon said that an important part of the cruise conversion programme is the private sector and so they are working in tandem with them.
Additional work is being done to reach out to more cruise passengers through welcome back cards, etc.
‘We’re building up our team so can do that and have continued dialogue with the private sector so we will be able to expand our reach in the visitors we are contacting,’ said Ms McField-Nixon.
This is something that has been made a priority by the Ministry for the DoT to follow up on and it has also been endorsed by CITA, which sees that as a unique opportunity and an important ingredient for the future success of tourism.
Emma Graham-Taylor of ACT said it is important to increase the presence of tourist information at the port, because it had so many queries from tourists at its booth on just this one day. It is something it would like to see happen more often, she said. CITA has been requesting this for a while and it is just a matter of working together with them and the DoT to make it happen, she said.
Alongside character Diego as a star attraction, other activities on Wednesday included the North Side Kitchen Band, a cultural display of produce from the Department of Agriculture, various vendors, rope-making, thatch weaving and gig making from Cayman Traditional Arts along with local band Wild Knights.