A slow year for cruise ship arrivals continued with the number of visitors hitting a record low in June. But the gloomy statistic was offset a bit by a slight increase in air arrivals and the confirmation that cruise numbers will increase dramatically next year.
There were just 61,027 cruise tourists arriving in Grand Cayman by cruise ship in June 2013, compared with nearly 90,000 for the same month in 2012, according to statistics from the Cayman Islands Department of Tourism.
A drop in arrivals for 2013 was forecast in advance based on the bookings from the major cruise lines, which are made up to two years ahead of time.
It is believed that figures will dip as low as 1.4 million for the year, the lowest since 2001. This will be a temporary blip, however, with several cruise lines cutting their European schedules and moving more ships to the Caribbean. Next year should see cruise arrivals back up to around 1.8 million, according to the Port Authority of the Cayman Islands.
Carnival, Norwegian and the Mediterranean Shipping Company have all added ships to the Caribbean route, calling in at Grand Cayman. In an interview with the Compass last month, Joseph Woods, manager of cruise operations and security at the port authority, said things would start to pick up from October of this year.
“According to the bookings that we already have, things are looking really good for the next two years,” Mr. Woods said. “We knew this year was going to be a lull, but right now we are looking at things picking up to nearer peak levels in 2014 and 2015.”
Carnival is adding Carnival Breeze and Carnival Dream, MSC is sending the MSC Divina and Norwegian is adding the Norwegian Epic to their regular Cayman callers. Mr. Woods said this would likely mean passenger arrivals of around 1.8 million.
The struggles of the cruise industry in 2013 have been offset somewhat by a rise in visitors arriving by air. Precisely 31,889 tourists touched down at Owen Roberts International Airport in June, the best month since 2000, according to statistics released by the government.
The figures continue a trend of improving arrival numbers for 2013. With the exception of May, every month this year has seen the highest arrival figures since at least 2001.
There were 192,411 tourists arriving by air in the first six months of this year, comparing favourably with slightly more than 180,000 for the first half of last year.
Air arrivals are viewed as potentially more vital to the island’s fortunes in the long term because visitors stay for longer and spend more. The estimated total spend of passengers arriving by air in 2011 was CI$287, compared with $67 for cruise ship passengers. No figures are available for estimated spend in 2012 and 2013.