Cruise ship pullouts discussed

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    The Caribbean Tourism Organisation has met with the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association to discuss the problem of cruise ship repositioning. 

    Concerns were expressed by the tourism body that cruise lines are pulling out significant numbers of vessels from the Caribbean in favour of Europe and Asia during summer months. This leads, said the organisation’s chairman Ricky Skerritt, to significant economic loss to local businesses and economies in the current 
difficult climate. 

    “We ask that together we begin a new examination of the issues related to this concern so that the Caribbean, especially those islands farther to the east and south, can become more competitive in the summer cruise business without compromising the financial performance of the cruise lines,” Mr. Skerritt said. 

    Cayman’s latest cruise figures – 87,209 during June – are the worst in 10 years, following an equally-bad May result. Harry Lalli of the Cayman Islands Tourism Association said this was due to a number of factors. 

    “The moving of these ships from the Caribbean area is something the Cayman Islands has no control over. The ships are being moved to areas where more tickets can be sold; these ships are not coming to Jamaica, Cozumel, all the different islands suffer. 

    “We suffer more because we do not have the docking facility, so we are losing the Royal Caribbean mega ship Oasis of the Seas which brings over 5,000 either weekly or bi-weekly which would put 10,000 or 20,000 on the June figures and the Oasis and Allure cannot tender so they are bypassing Cayman,” Mr. Lalli said. 

    Premier McKeeva Bush said there was always a seasonal dip in the summer months, although air arrivals had been boosted by promotions and deals by the Department of Tourism and industry partners. 

    “The drop in cruise passenger arrivals, while regrettable, should not be surprising to anyone as our ability to influence cruise passenger travel choices is limited without the appropriate physical development. 

    “To address this situation, I continue to have discussions with the FCCA to ensure that the number of cruise ships visiting the Cayman Islands is maintained at a level as best as possible until our new port facilities are built and we are able to welcome the new mega class of ships,” he said. 


    Mutual benefit  


    The meeting between the cruise association and tourism organisation took place at the offices of Carnival Cruise Lines and explored ways the situation could be resolved for mutual benefit. 

    Both sides were in agreement that a broad framework was the way forward, involving conducting and sharing substantial information gathering and research. Ideas on marketing and product development were discussed and further meetings will take place. 

    The Caribbean Tourism Organisation works with 33 countries in the public and private sector to promote travel to the region. The Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association comprises 14 member cruise lines and more than 100 vessels in the waters of the region. It works with media, governments, ports and tourism bodies to foster discussion of cruise issues both on board the ships and on land.
The economic value of the industry was reiterated by a report by the Cruise Lines International Association – which deals with cruises to and from the United States – though revenue per passenger fell by 1.3 per cent during 2010, to US$1,620. 

    The body noted the total impact on the US economy of the North American cruise industry was US$37.85 billion, a 7.8 per cent increase over 2009, but still below the record revenue year of 2008 when a $40.2 billion impact was recorded. 

    Cayman’s June cruise figures are the worst in 10 years. 

    cruise ship

    The cruise industry has many economic knock-on effects. – Photo: File


    1. This drop off has nothing to do with cruise berthing facilities, it’s part of a general shift in the industry forced by a combination of customers demands and fuel costs. Simply put the cruise lines are putting their money where they get the best returns.

      The mega liners will never come to Cayman, they weren’t built for a destination that increasing makes no economic sense.

      Look at what has happened elsewhere. On Grand Turk Carnival developed a cruise port with 14 acres of facilities for their customers. In Jamaica Royal Caribbean have just teamed up with the government to develop Falmouth harbour for the new liners.

      Now ask yourself why there’s been no similar initiative in Cayman. Why are the cruise lines not working with CIG on the proposed new cruise berth?

      I don’t see anything like a vague commitment from FCCA to even use the new dock let alone any offer to actually participate in the project – doesn’t that sound a few warning bells to anyone?

      I think the cruise industry has simply out-grown Cayman and dreaming of the days when ships like Oasis of the Seas might be tied up at George Town is pie in the proverbial sky. More likely these ships will end up in Havana harbour, and the cruise docks already being planned for other locations in Cuba, while all the investment in the Cayman cruise berth goes to waste.

      Why not put the money where it might do some good and use it to rebuild Cayman’s traditional tourism industry – the stayover customer.

    2. Cayman has known for YEARS that our cruise ship facilities were inadequate. Our government naively thought it wouldn’t matter to the cruise ship owners. Well, they were wrong. People do not want to take the little shuttle boats back and forth, it’s that simple. Was our government stalling on building the cruise ship port to save one little enterpreneur who owned the shuttle boats? Looks like it. So now many shop owners suffer, as do the restaurant owners. The other group to suffer, and you don’t report this in your article about lost revenue / visitors is that many cruise ship passengers who come to Cayman love the island, and later return for a 1 or 2 week holiday. So we lose out on all that return visitor revenue: Hotels, restaurant, shops. So, when is our government going to forge ahead and DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT??? Build that cruise ship NOW. IMMEDIATELY… WE need it desperately before more shop owners go bankrupt.

    3. I remember at some point during this whole drawn out process of getting a berthing facility that the cruise lines did want to develop a facilty here but wanted to own the facilty outright to which Govt said no. Govt even declined Dart’s offer to develop the facilty and be granted a extended popcorn lease because Govt thought the lease period was too long.

      I do think the Caribbean cruise industry is hurting directly because of the economic downturn and that we should still go ahead and build the berthing facility so that when things get better, we will be ready.

      Every other respectable Caribbean destination has one and so should Cayman.

    4. CaymanMermaid

      One little addition to your comments, which bring home some very valuable points to bear on the overall situation.

      My additional point is that originally, the cruiseship tender entrepraneur is not a small businessman or small business, as you put it.

      The original tender business is or used to be a division of a larger family-owned and run operation that included a major car-dealership, a furniture store and still the islands only propane cooking gas provider; I’ll refrain from naming the family name because any Caymanian or long-term resident reading these comments already know who this family is.

      This tender business is/was an off-shoot of the services provided to the Port Authority as the harbour pilot, who is the acknowledged government-consulted expert on the waters, currents and tides around the GT harbour; without this pilot, these cruise ships would run aground,as one did years ago when its captain moved the ship without consulting the harbour pilot.

      This is a reflection of the very sensitive business and personal relationships on which Cayman has been built and needs to be handled delicately in any major changes to a system already in place for many years.

      A part of the problem of the delay in building this cruiseship berth has also been objections raised by certain elements in Cayman who opposed it because they had/have no respect for the cruise industry and denies that it adds any value to Cayman’s economy that their preferred stay-over tourism does.

      As in any thing, you will never know the value of something until it is gone and I would think, with shrinking cruise visits and numbers and the knock-on effect on George Town’s economy, that the value of the cruise ships would now be recognised and acknowledged.

      Many small operators depend on the cruise ships and while the berthing should at least keep whatever percentage of the industry that Cayman now has, efforts will have to be made to share the revenue around and this will include the business that the tender-owners will lose by having lost the tender contracts for the cruise ships.

      How to share this revenue around as equitably as possible has always been a vexing bone of contention for Cayman’s tourism industry.

    5. I think the general public needs to know more about what is going on with the cruise business. I agree with the writer who says the cruise lines go where it is convenient for their business, period.
      Cruise lines have formed an association that gives them business power. During meetings with operators they have said they want to be considered business partners. However they have not hesitated to cut down 20% from the contracts under the pressure that you may loose your tours, they have not hesitated to take tours away from operators based solely on cheaper bids, they have not hesitated to ask operators not to sale a particular item in the shops because they sale it on board and the list goes on and on mostly to their benefit. Obviously those who built their business solely relaying on the cruise ship market, now they are in for a bit of trouble.
      And that was the plan all along. The ships needed somewhere fun, clean and safe to go and came to us. We welcomed the business and we even built attractions that don’t even have a local flavor; we made town to look just like any other harbor to please their business and we were all happy of how much money we were bringing in. We did not care we lost our own identity (if we ever had one) and we transformed into Any harbor/ cruise ship town in the Caribbean. Now the cruise lines are raising their demands to improve our facilities while asking us to keep the prices from 1990 or risk to loose them all together to those locations that caved in to their pressure. That is the way it goes. No matter how many meetings of important head honchos, it is business after all. It is their way or the highway. They created an associated monopoly and we are stuck with it. They will leave us without looking back; not dropping one tear in the process, and a lot of businesses will crash because they were built with only one source of customers.
      During this process of many years, we lost our sight of caring for the stay over tourism that coincidentally, gets bothered by the mob spirit of the cruise ships off loading thousands of people, rushing all over the place trying to do a lot on a short time. Whether we like it or not, we lost a lot of our stay over tourism as a result of selling our soul to the cruise lines. The numbers of returning ship visitors as a stay over is low. The idea of promoting the island thru disembarking guests for a future return was good but the results were not. Different demographic. It is sad to hear the ship passengers around town asking what island is this one? They have no idea. They are too caught up on the madness of a ship’s tour.
      If we are going to bring cruise ships, let’s offer the guests the best facilities and experience possible. They (the guests) deserve it. But let’s go back to our roots of stay over tourism. Let’s be different than Saint Thomas, Anguilla, Haiti, or any other place. We are an attractive location with great people. We have always been a great asset to the ship’s market, but the will go where business make sense for them. We need to do the same and not put all the eggs in one basket. The shops in town have done so and now

    6. Let me agree with Diver. My greatest disappointment when coming home to Cayman via Disney Cruise Lines a few years ago was sailing into George Town Harbor. I could not recognize the Hog Sty Bay area – it looked just like the Bahamas. Our harbor once had a unique look, a Caymanian look, now it is generic and artificial.

    7. This may seem a little weird but some policies also pushes cruise ships to pullout. If their will be no regulations to follow small boats are no longer existing. To prevent negative issues the government sets some rules and regulations in accordance with cruise lines. Even the best cruise lines/a has its own issues. Carrying passengers above it’s maximum capacity to have more income, not considering the safety of the passengers. I know issues are resolve in a quite way, not arguing whether to benefit from one to another.

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