Row develops over cruise tourism stats

A fiery statement by independent
body Cayman Islands Tourism Association has challenged Cayman to attend
urgently to its cruise tourism strategy.

The document noted that the Cayman
Islands Department of Tourism reported 1,520,372 passengers had visited Cayman
during 2009, the lowest since 2001.

According to a separate report by
the Florida-Caribbean
Cruise Association their average spend was $96.78 per passenger, a half-dollar
under the average on-shore spend Caribbean-wide, which was $97.26 per passenger
last year.

“The Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association
and Cayman Islands Department of Tourism figures reported contradict one another
with CIDOT only showing a 3 per cent downturn, while FCCA reported as much as a
30 per cent reduction from 2008 to 2009. 
This is due to a significant oversight in the way CIDOT reports based on
ship manifests, rather than actually counting how many passengers actually come
ashore,” it read.

The statement went on to say that
estimated losses for 2009 in the local cruise tourism economy equated to $24
million in cruise ship passenger spending plus $3.2 million to government
revenues from a passenger head tax.

Guidelines

Shomari Scott, acting director of
the Cayman Islands Department of Tourism told the Caymanian Compass that air
and cruise arrival statistics were provided by the Cayman Islands Immigration
Department and calculated according to Caribbean Tourism Organisation industry
guidelines.

“Cruise arrival statistics in the Cayman Islands are derived from the number of passengers
on board the cruise ships, as opposed to the number of passengers that actually
disembark. Accordingly, a head tax is collected from all passengers and not
just those that disembark. The same is true for all CTO member countries,” they
said.

“Total cruise arrivals for
January-December 2009 were 1,520,372, which amounts to a 2.1 per cent reduction
over the previous calendar year.” 

 

Berthing

Last year, US Virgin Islands attracted
the highest per-head spending of any cruise destination, with each passenger
spending $193.22 – an injection of $304.3 million into the local economy.
Conversely, Bahamas
attracted the most visitors in the Caribbean
but they only spent $83.93 on shore.

One of Cayman’s main problems,
according to the CITA statement, was the lack of berthing facilities, which
meant that passengers were spending less time on shore or even staying on the
ship in Cayman compared to other destinations.

“When you see the number of
passengers who are in port each day and compare it to the amount of visitors
who appear on the dock –  it often
appears to be significantly lower amount than the number reported on the
manifests and what are recorded as ‘visitors’?”

“There is no public data available
to prove how many passengers are tendering – but we may be literally missing
the business of 50 per cent of the guests and 75 per cent of the crew, or
more?” asked the CITA document.

Calculated

In response, Shomari Scott told the
Caymanian Compass that the Cayman Islands Department of Tourism did not have a
specific relationship with tender operators whereby specific cruise passenger
statistics could be provided.

“This is because a single cruise
passenger could disembark and embark more than once while the ship is in port
(i.e. return to the cruise ship for lunch) which would make it very difficult
for Immigration, cruise ship officials or the tender operators to accurately
record the number of passenger that alight on any given day.”

The Florida-Caribbean Cruise
Association, said the Department of Tourism, conduct an annual study along with
Business Research and Economic Advisors to analyse the contribution of cruise
tourism on the economies of a variety of destinations in the Caribbean, Central
and South America and Mexico. The subsequent data shows that historically 90
per cent of passengers disembark at Cayman.

“The latest BREA report prepared in October 2009, which
covers the period May 2008 to April 2009, corroborates this and states that
1,305,700 passengers disembarked during this period, which equates to
approximately 90 per cent. The CIDOT uses this 90 per cent figure as the baseline
to calculate cruise visitor expenditure. According to the FCCA, this disembarkation
rate is one of the highest in the Caribbean,”
added Mr. Scott.

Silver bullet

The CITA statement was signed by
the president of the organisation, Stephen Broadbelt. It went on to state that
a proper cruise berthing facility, whilst not a ‘silver bullet’, could allow
Cayman to ‘purpose design and build into the port a comprehensive hotel and attraction
experience that all guests would have to interact with or through before
reaching their tours or shopping.’

“Many of these 1.5+ million cruise
passengers are candidates to return as stay-over visitors and we are missing
out on the opportunity to impress them,” it read.

Cayman had the fourth highest
number of passenger visits and ranked sixth in direct cruise tourism amongst
the 29 surveyed destinations, replied the Department of Tourism’s Shomari Scott.

“Notwithstanding the revenue
derived from cruise ship passengers, the BREA
report states that more than 50 per cent of cruise passengers said they would
return for a land-based vacation in the Cayman Islands.

“The CIDOT is working hard to
convert cruise passengers into stay-over visitors. Plans are in place to launch
an incentive-based pilot programme in May 2010, which aims to encourage a
minimum of 1 per cent of cruise ship passengers to return as stay-over guests
in the next two years.

 “There is no doubt of the value of cruise
tourism to the Cayman Islands economy and the CIDOT and Ministry of Tourism continue
to work together in collaboration with CITA, Association for the Advancement of
Cruise Tourism and other industry partners to ensure the ongoing success of the
Cayman Islands cruise industry,” said Mr. Scott.

Attention

CITA’s statement concluded with a
call for the government to devote as much attention to the tourism industry as
it is to the financial sector ‘before it is too late’.

 “Cayman will ultimately fail to our competition
if we do not have the political will and a dynamic, strategic and accountable
plan for tourism as a whole. Our leadership at every level must fully acknowledge
and support cruise tourism along with our tourism vision as a whole.

“As stated all along the Environmental
Impact study for the cruise berthing facilities need to be completed as an
integrated part of the design process and agreements between developers and
contractors need to be executed,” it read.

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Cruise ship passengers in downtown George Town.
Photo: Stephen Clarke
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1 COMMENT

  1. Well
    I would not come back if I tendered into spotts Its is Disgusting. How about a tent so those poor people dont have to stand in the sun for hours in dust and dirt Do we need a study? To show how unhappy those customers are ?

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