It doesn’t look like it’s going to be a very good summer for cruise ship passenger numbers.
The newest numbers – from May – tell the story that those in the cruise tourism industry anticipated and feared. We had the lowest number of cruise visitors since the year 2000.
When the cruise tourism numbers are down, many peoples’ lives are affected.
We’ve already witnessed the closure of retail shops in downtown George Town, leaving a feeling on some days of a ghost town atmosphere.
When those shops close it’s not just the sales clerks who lose jobs. Suppliers and those who work for them have to cut back, which means their employees may lose their jobs.
With more people out of work, less money is spent at supermarkets and there is less discretionary spending all around, which has its own knock on effect.
Cayman Islands Tourism Association Executive Director Trina Christian is absolutely right – the Cayman Islands needs to make up its mind whether it wants to continue to lure cruise ship visitors to our shores.
Inaction at the proposed berthing port would seem to indicate to the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association and others that we are indeed not interested in cruise ship travellers.
Premier McKeeva Bush began earnest efforts in 2005 to get cruise ship berthing on Grand Cayman. Six years – and four alleged developers – later we still have passengers being tendered to our shore. Government is now working with China Harbour Engineering Company to develop the port and its berthing pier, but no work has begun yet.
The Cayman Islands is already behind the curve when it comes to cruise ship berthing.
We can only hope that we have another good high season this year.
But in the meantime retailers can’t keep open and serve absentee visitors on the hope of the future. At some point cruise ship visitors are going to spread the word that our downtown is lacking because of closed storefronts. Until we get proper berthing, the numbers will continue to fall.