Cruise crashes

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    May saw the lowest number of cruise visitors to the Cayman Islands since the year 2000.

    The drop had been anticipated by the industry following a relatively strong high season, said Trina Christian, Cayman Islands Tourism Association executive director. 

    “The writing has been on the wall for quite some time, so we are not surprised. We had anticipated cruise numbers would go down and that the forecast was heavy for high season and really low in the low season. 

    “It is a huge concern for our members and we recognise there are a lot of things going on; [are we building] this port, or that port, which is the right environmental design and so on. But there is a hardcore reality that we either have to get out of the cruise business or find something that is going to work in order to maintain the numbers that we need to sustain the infrastructure that we have. There has been an organic development [of businesses in George Town] based upon a certain number of cruise passengers. We need to either do something to feed that or face a harsher reality,” she said. 

    There were 91,909 visitors during May 2011, a drop of almost 20 per cent compared to 2010’s total of 114,504. 

    No mega-ships 

    Premier McKeeva Bush told the Compass his government had repeatedly warned that without berthing facilities cruise numbers would continue to fall. 

    He said that the new, mega-class ships would not come to Cayman for a myriad of reasons which a berthing facility would solve and that the government was ‘doing everything possible’ to ensure that the project moved forward. He said there were discussions under way with the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association to ensure Cayman retained ‘a decent number’ of cruise arrivals in the intervening period.  

    “The need for a cruise berthing facility is not a new idea. The fact is, I had started in 2005 on berthing in my previous administration and had gotten agreement from the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association to do the piers with Misner Marine. This agreement was left in place for the PPM administration to continue with, but they cancelled the project and that is why we have no piers operating today.  

    “If that arrangement had been followed and completed, we would have a complete, functioning berthing facility operating at this point in time and as a result, we would now be seeing an increase in cruise passengers. As that did not happen, we will continue to see a decline in cruise arrivals until a cruise berthing facility is built,” revealed Mr. Bush. 

    Since 2005, there have been agreements in various forms with Atlantic Star, The Dart Enterprise Construction Company and GLF Corporation. Currently, the government is pursuing an agreement with a new partner, China Harbour Engineering Company. 

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    This preliminary design for cruise berthing was undertaken by previous developers GLF Construction. –Photo: File


    1. I completely agree with the Premier about the need for a cruise berthing facility. I find it ironic that he complains about a previous adnimistration cancelling a project and then says that is why we have no piers operating today.

    2. I don’t see any real indication from the cruise operators that they may step up visits to Cayman if the dock is built. In fact the way the whole industry is moving right now it seems like this decline will continue whatever you do.

      The worrying thing about this whole project is that no where do I see any input from the people who will allegedly benefit from it. This total lack of commitment from the cruise operators suggests that, as is suggested above, it might be better to make plans to move on.

      The longer you rely on the myth that building this facility will miraculously resurrect the tourist industry the longer it will take for things to get better.

      As the saying goes – Simple solutions seldom are.

    3. I read this article on the front page of the Observer last week. I was SHOCKED- to learn the public is just noticing that Georgetown is dead!

      Most of Georgetowns shopping district is lined with jewelry and cheap t-shirt stores which usually close at 5:30 (on a long day). I have to admit I was one of those few that was excited to see the the Jacques Scott store had been taken over and was under a remodel. My high expectations were blown to smithereens when I noticed that the Cayman Islands Govt has approved a business license for yet another souvenir shop. May I also mention- that it has been seen- the Cayman Craft Market carries bags with Jamaica sprawled across the front- Hey ship passengers- just in case you forgot to pick up that bag- You have a second chance!

      I can speak from experience as I work in the hospitality industry. On a daily basis guests ask me, what is going on in Georgetown tonight? I have to reply- unfortunately not much. Whats the shopping like? – we wont go there again. And repeatedly, I see tourists walking through Georgetown at 6pm dressed to the nines, with a dumbfounded look on their faces- everything is closed?! The amount of times Ive heard- Wow, Georgetown is a drag.

      See most capital cities around the world are hustling a bustling with entertainment and shopping- Somehow Cayman missed this memo.

      Georgetown, Cayman- the solution to resolving the lack of foot traffic does not rely on dredging up the ocean floor and spending millions of dollars on docks! (there is no promise the ships will come anyway!) There is a niche in the market that needs to be addressed – US, the locals, the 9-5 workers that want to shop and have a cocktail after work, the airline guests searching for excitement.

      If Georgetown wants to improve its tourism the first step would be to clean up its act. Add a bit of diversity, upgrade its shopping- (did anyone see the sign for the Bite Me Cafe not to mention its lack of creativity in naming the place but its atmosphere wasn’t exactly screaming come here!)

      The longevity of Georgetown does not reside in the arrival of Cruise Ships- It is a beautiful city that is only fulfilling half of its potential.

    4. Ok,
      If Georgetown is dead that means somewhere else is alive!
      Has this Premier shifted businesses to the 7 mile beach or West Bay?. Killing business in George Town the Capital is not good. Next thing you’ll hear W.B is the new Capital! then we’ll have no other choice but to defect from them. East Grand Cayman and West Grand Cayman. Why don’t we do this and we won’t have anymore problems. Build a Wall and get rid of our problems. Too much problem with their choices at the poles anyway so lets resolve it.
      Alden, tell the UK we’d like to break away from West Bay!

    5. I’d like to know the real reason for the decline in cruise ship attendance and I don’t think it has ANYTHING to do with dockage facilities!
      We’ve all got our suspicions, so let’s voice them.

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