Cruise lines are not paying tour
operators enough to keep them in business.
That’s the warning from the Land
& Sea Cooperative, which represents some 200 independent boat owners and
bus drivers on Cayman. The cooperative has worked with cruise ships to pre-book
tours since 2001 and also helps coop members with group health insurance plans
and pension issues.
During Land & Sea’s annual
general meeting last week, several issues facing the industry were discussed,
said treasurer Shane Courtney Ebanks.
“Being a cooperative, it’s very
difficult to be able to sustain payment to the drivers, the boat owners, the
turtle farm and so on, hence the reason why we have to continue to look to government
for grants,” he said.
Mr. Ebanks added that in the
current financial climate the figures just did not add up for the collective,
which would ideally be self-sustaining.
“The money we get from the cruise
lines is just not sufficient. In a cooperative, everyone is an owner, so rather
than with a company where you’d have a big lump sum of money and pay everybody
out of that, if you take 28 people in your bus we have to pay $10 per head,
which is $280.
“From a $50, $60, $70 ticket [which
the cruise lines charge their guests for tours] we get $34, and out of that we
have to pay expenses including, for example, a $10 entrance fee for the turtle
farm, $10 to the buses, $12 for the Stingray City boats, which leaves $2 to run
the operation, to pay staff, pay all insurance, pensions and everything else.
“It’s just not happening; $2
commission per head is not enough to sustain it.”
Michele M. Paige of the
Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association said prices were set between tour operators
and cruise lines.
“Pricing is very individual; the
cruise lines and the operator come to an agreement of what is a fair price. A
rule of thumb is that the cruise lines mark it up by 50 per cent as they have
their own costs involved with selling it on-board. …
“Each line operates differently,
but they all want the best and a very diversified grouping of shore excursions.
It’s a proven fact that passengers who go on a shore excursion have a better
likelihood of having a satisfactory visit to the destination. If the price is
too high, it results in not very many people [taking up the tour] – there has
to be value for money,” said the president of the cruise association, which
represents 15 cruise lines which operate over 100 vessels in Florida, the
Caribbean and Latin American waters.
Mr. Ebanks said that without
government help, the cooperative might as well close its doors and say Land
& Sea was ‘a good try’.
“The bottom line is that the cruise
ships should be paying a little more attention to their partners. Don’t just do
what you want all the time, but remember that we’re here, stuck with all the
overheads, from liability to entrance fees and everything else.”