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.
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.