Cruise tourism brings benefits

In response to the editorial on 18 December looking at the importance of tourism to the Cayman economy; your editorial states that cruise tourism is less valuable than stayover tourism and therefore we should not provide proper infrastructure for cruise tourism to operate effectively including a berthing facility.

It is unfortunate that your newspaper is once again pushing forward one of the biggest tourism falsehoods; that Cayman is faced with a choice of one form of tourism over another and that stayover tourism will not be successful whilst there is substantial cruise tourism. It is mistaken and a flawed approach for a variety of reasons including:

• Remember the old adage do not put all your eggs in one basket. After Hurricane Ivan, cruise tourism came back in full force from 1 November bringing much needed revenue and hope into our community. Stayover tourism had a much more difficult time with some projects opening after a few more months, some after a much longer time and some cases (as in the Hyatt) never recovering at all. It was only because Cayman had a diversified tourism product that we were able to quickly start earning much needed tourism dollars. We are now faced with the potential economic version of a Hurricane Ivan and now is not the time to be putting all our eggs in one tourism basket.

• One of the major attractions to tourists (cruise and stayover alike) is that Cayman has some of the best duty free shopping in the western Caribbean. All of our tourism related retailers will confirm that without the cruise market they would never have been able to have developed their businesses in the first place and to continue to carry such a wide selection to offer all tourists and residents. There are a number of examples of this kind of synergy where cruise tourism benefits stayover tourism.

• There is a perception that cruise tourism is purely mass market and uniform in its spending power. However the reality is much more complex. There are premium brands in the cruise market like Celebrity Cruises and Princess Cruises as well as luxury brands like Regent and Silverseas. These traditionally attract a much higher spending guest and subsequently many will fall into Cayman’s demographic target for stayover tourism. In addition a ship like the Freedom of the Seas, which calls on Cayman year-round, is considered mass market but even within the ship there are many categories of accommodation ranging from the budget to the high end. A significant number of the Freedom’s 4,000 guests would be considered high end, taking the ship’s suites and more expensive outside cabins. Again these people will fall easily into Cayman’s demographic target market. These guests are perfect for conversion into stayover tourists if they like what they see of Cayman. From a marketing perspective anyone who is a cruise visitor and who falls into Cayman’s target demographic is a dream come true. They arrive here to experience our islands with an open mind and at no cost to anyone in Cayman, even better they are spending money. Their view of Cayman (and their desire to return as a stayover visitor) will be almost totally formed by the experience they have as a Cruise visitor.

Cayman needs to look at itself not in isolation but as part of the larger Caribbean tourism industry where there is an understanding that it is both possible and desirable for stay over and cruise tourism to intermingle and feed each other. As an example about what others are doing I enclose a press report from Antigua showing their approach to Cruise tourism and the benefits it brings.

We would hope that your future editorials are more balanced and understanding of our overall tourism issues.

The Board of Directors, Association for the Advancement of Cruise Tourism

Brynley Davies, Gene Thompson and Robert Hamaty

Cruise sector doing well despite downturn, says Dundas

By Afeefah Beharry

Antigua Sun • December 28, 2008

Despite the slow economic downturn, Antigua and Barbuda is still continuing to reap benefits from the cruise tourism industry.

President of the Antigua and Barbuda Cruise Tourism Association Nathan Dundas said cruise tourism still brings in much needed foreign currency in the economies of most of the Caribbean countries.

“While we see that the hotel sector is hurting with the significant high percentage of decreases across the Caribbean, the cruise sector continues to hold the strain for many of these countries with the steady flow of passengers to our islands,” Dundas told the Antigua Sun.

“It is very important that we understand the significance of this development.”

According to him, the cruise lines continue to make adjustments in their marketing strategies to attract passengers. “And likewise, we too have to continue to make similar adjustments to attract the cruise lines to choose our port and our country in their itinerary planning,” he added.

He explained that while the spending power of tourists is greatly reduced, it is important for stakeholders to use this opportunity to build relationships for the future.

Dundas indicated that he, Minister of Tourism Harold Lovell along with General Manager of the Antigua Pier Group Conrad Pole have been targeting the cruise officials to ensure that Antigua and Barbuda remains a regular stop for the cruise lines.

Lovell has maintained direct contact with the top cruise officials and he has been spearheading the discussions that have seen the continued flow of passengers to the destination.

“I still believe that we have to enhance some of our products and services especially in the area of our culture since we have thousands of visitors arriving at Heritage Quay and there is need for us to feature more at this captive point of entrance,” Dundas stated.

Yesterday, Antigua and Barbuda recorded over 8,000 passengers and over 3,000 crew members from ship calls to the country’s ports.

Barbuda was not left out of the equation with the call of the unique cruise ship The World of Residence Sea. The ship had over 200 passengers and 262 crew members.

“There has been a continued effort to have Barbuda on a regular itinerary for the smaller cruise ships,” Dundas told the SUN.