“Welcome Back” entices cruise passengers to return

 The millions of cruise ship passengers that step onto Cayman’s shores every year are about to be the target of a new cruise conversion programme.
   “Welcome Back”, the programme designed to encourage passengers to return as stay over guests though special vacation deals will be launched soon by the Department of Tourism.
   “The DoT’s cruise conversion programme was first introduced in 2004 but had to be put on hold following Hurricane Ivan,” said Racquel Brown, manager of Tourism Development Services. “The pilot programme that we’re intending to introduce by the end of the year is a reintroduction of the previous programme, with improved promotional offers/rewards, website redevelopment and database management.”
   Headquartered in the newly remodelled DoT welcome centre at the Royal Watler Terminal the “Welcome Back” programme will be easily visible and accessible to the thousands of cruise ship tourists who arrive in Cayman daily.
    Officials say the potential to boost Cayman’s tourism industry in the long term is there, and they believe this programme is just the marketing tool they need to get the process started.
   According to a recent study conducted by the Florida Caribbean Cruise Association, 1.45 million cruise passengers visited Cayman between May 2008 and April 2009.
   During that period 1.31 million (90 per cent) passengers disembarked, with each person spending on average $96.78 a day that’s $126.4 million being pumped into our local businesses.
   Industry officials says those numbers cannot be ignored any longer.
   “Cayman has a very particular target market in looking for stay over guests with high disposable incomes and we need to recognize that there are a substantial number of these people sailing as part of the cruise tourists arriving on our shores.” Said Brynley Davies Founder The Association for the Advancement of Cruise Tourism
   With so many other destinations vying for tourism dollars,  Davies cautions that a cruise conversion programme is not a “miracle” solution saying, “a cruise conversion programme in its self is not going to work if there is not a national focus on making sure that cruise tourists have a great experience in Cayman.”
   He adds when compared to other island nations Cayman has traditionally been lacking in managing cruise guests’ experiences citing poor road infrastructure, unorganised ground transportation, and other failings.
   The men and women who are being targeted by the “Welcome Back” programme have an entirely different assessment of Cayman.
   “It’s beautiful here,” says Philip a cruise passenger visiting from New York. “I would like to stay on the Island next time I come and stay for a week or two, it’s just perfect.”
   Neelish from New York said “I have been to a lot of other Caribbean countries and there’s a lot of stuff to do here.”
   While T iwani ,a  cruise ship passenger visiting from the United States, enthused. “It’s a destination I would like to come back to and stay for a week or two, it’s perfecto here.”  .
   How It Works
   “Welcome Back” is not like its counterpart, “The “Freestay Caribbean” cruise conversion programme adopted by Jamaica, Barbados, St. Kitts, Cozumel and several other countries.
   A web base terminal inside the welcoming centre replaces the souvenir coins distributed to passengers who visit participating StayFree countries.
     By installing the system in a high profile, heavily trafficked area DoT officials are making it possible for visitors to quickly sign up for the programme on island, a stark contrast to “Freestay” where visitors have to wait until they return home to register on line.
   DoT has partnered with several local businesses to offer exclusive discount offers and travel incentives to cruise ship passengers who sign up for the “Welcome Back” programme.
  Brown says a sophisticated system is also in place to monitor the success of the program.
   “Visitors will be tracked from registration to redemption of rewards for their return vacation in the Cayman Islands using a database management system, she said. “In addition tourist accommodations who have partnered with “Welcome Back” will have reservation codes for all “Welcome Back” guests who stay at their resorts which will be reporting to the DoT monthly.”
   She says they looked at several other regional programmes but with very little data available on other countries conversion rates of cruise passengers to stay over guests, the “Welcome Back” pilot programme will be the measuring tool.
    “If we can even covert 1 per cent of the expected 1.7 million passengers for 2009 to return as stay over guests, then this equates to an additional 17,000 stay over guests and ambassadors of the Cayman Islands.”