On the whole, the 2010/11 season has been a good one for local water sports and dive operators, with many reporting August is proving busier than expected.
“It’s been nonstop,” said Emma Nicholsby, reservation manager at Divetech, explaining that at maximum capacity they book four boats per day, and are sending out three or four boats every day. Divetech staff reported having turned people away this month, due to the lack of available space.
Captain Marvin’s also reported having five or more boat trips going out each day. Although the business has been affected by the global recession, office manager Melinda Ebanks said on the whole, the season had not been a bad one.
For Red Sail Sports, which operates six outlets around Grand Cayman, it has been a good season too. So good, in fact, they have recently launched a special offer for residents: 50 percent off any of their tours and activities. This is not a low season deal to generate local business during the quiet months, however. The offer will run continuously throughout the next high season until December 2012. The offer is not only open to residents, but also to the family and friends of residents who come to visit them in Cayman.
“We know it can be difficult for families who come down to visit relatives to pay the full amount for our trips, so we are extending the discount to them. We have actually done quite well this season so we are feeling quite generous,” said Lashan Perez, marketing coordinator for Red Sail Sports.
Trina Christian, executive director of the Cayman Islands Tourism Association, said the summer months are traditionally better for diving and water sports, but that hotels and condos are actually less busy than this time last year. By the middle of August things tend to drop significantly across the board, she said.
Businesses whose customers are largely stay-over visitors have fared better than those who primarily deal with cruise ship passengers.
For a few, the decrease in the number of cruise ship visitors has meant this year has been worse than previous years. Although air arrivals for May and June were up slightly on last year, the number of cruise visitors dropped sharply compared to 2010.
Chip Whitney, owner of Stingray Sailing, which markets itself to cruise ship passengers, reported business in June and July this year was about 40 per cent down on the same period last year.
Shawn Ebanks, who receives around 80 per cent of his business at Ebanks Watersports from cruise ships, says it has been up and down all season, although overall he is not seeing a marked difference during the past two years.
A common trend noted by all seems to be that tourists are booking at the last minute.
“Whereas we are used to taking reservations months in advance, now we are getting the calls a week before. Some people are even calling the same day,” Mr. Ebanks said.
This reflects a change in attitude in consumers in all income brackets, Ms Christian said.
“People are not afraid to book last minute vacations any more. They are always on the lookout for a great deal,” she said.
A number of special deals and packages will be available during the coming slow months, including the Cayman Madness dive packages and the extension of local staycation rates to visiting friends and families.