The Cayman Islands Tourism Association is renewing its dedication to the cruise industry, attendees of the recent Annual Tourism Conference were told.
‘We’re revitalising our commitment to the cruise industry and recognising that tourism is only one industry and not two. For some time there has been some disconnect,’ said CITA President Stephen Broadbelt during his address at the conference.
And with regard to stayover tourism, a main long term objective of the CITA is to look into the feasibility of getting the runway extended at Owen Roberts International Airport, Mr. Broadbelt noted.
‘Air arrivals are the air that we breathe and cruise tourism is the water that we drink and we can’t survive without them both.
‘A stronger relationship needs building before we realise the full benefit of both cruise and stay-over tourism; it’s for the benefit of the people of the Cayman Islands,’ Mr. Broadbelt said.
At the CITA’s AGM earlier this year the organisation added a new seat for a cruise director on the board of directors – to which Mr. Bud Johnson of Atlantis Submarines was voted in.
‘This was to demonstrate and move forward that commitment to the cruise industry and make tourism one industry,’ said Mr. Broadbelt.
In line with the CITA’s goals of a unified sustainable tourism industry, another critical focus for them is the focus on three islands, but one destination.
‘Although we are three unique islands we are still one destination, and your competition is not next door but the next destination on a customer’s list,’ he said.
The CITA is also focused on cruise conversion.
‘There are anywhere from 1.5 to 1.7 million people who reach these shores and people often discount them that they don’t spend much money onshore. But if you look at the category of rooms, up to 20 per cent of the passengers on these ships are paying large amounts of money and actually fit the demographic of the stay-over visitor, so it’s perfect to market to try to get them to come back on a future visit,’ Mr. Broadbelt said.
The CITA is also pursuing the establishment of a visitors’ centre in George Town in order to help convert cruise passengers to stay-over visitors by helping them learn about various aspects of the islands, such as hotels.
‘We believe there must be a proper visitors’ centre in George Town in which the sole focus is getting people to come back for a longer stay.
‘They are not on shore long enough to see what all three islands have to offer but they can get a glimpse of what is here through the visitors centre. We feel that would definitely convert some of these passengers to come back as stay-over visitors,’ Mr. Broadbelt stated.
With regard to cruise berthing, Mr. Broadbelt said that CITA’s outlook on this is conditional on environmental issues that lie ahead. ‘We look forward to the public consultation process when we start looking at plans and design,’ he said.
But he also noted that berthing would allow for cruise passengers to have more time on shore, a more enjoyable experience, get to see more of the island and want to come back and visit for more than just a few hours.
With regard to stayover tourism, airlift is the most important thing, Mr. Broadbelt emphasised. ‘It always has been and always will be. Without it the tourism economy will crumble,’ he said.
CITA is pursuing doing its own feasibility study to look at extending the runway at the Owen Roberts International Airport in Grand Cayman.
A runway extension is a high priority, long term strategic objective for CITA, Mr. Broadbelt asserted.
In a list of the lengths of Caribbean islands’ runways, Grand Cayman is number 23 on a list of 30 for the length of its runway.
Top in lengths are Cuba and then the Dominican Republic with 13,123 and 11,000 feet respectively, down to the shortest runway, in Tortola, at 3,346 feet. Grand Cayman has a runway length of 7,000 feet.
‘We’re not trying to be Cuba or the Dominican Republic with mass tourism, but some islands similar in size have longer runways and are receiving business from Europe,’ he said.
Islands such as Martinique, Bermuda, Antigua and St. Lucia all have runways at least 2,000 feet longer than Grand Cayman, Martinique’s being nearly 4,000 feet longer.
But it’s not just about European business, either, Mr. Broadbelt stated.
‘It’s a lot easier to run current aircraft on longer runways as they can carry more cargo, have less wear and tear and can reduce operating costs of existing carriers,’ he said.
One major concern for the tourism industry, especially the bigger hotels, is the hike in energy bills. ‘Imagine electricity bills going up $50,000 in one month. That’s what they experienced the last couple months,’ said Mr. Broadbelt.
The CITA has been in talks with CUC and the first sign of relief is to come in the form off-peak metering, in January or soon after.
At night electricity is cheaper so it means hotels can cut down on costs by doing such things as laundry and using more refrigeration at night.