Sinking cruise numbers in July

The pattern of slightly higher air arrivals and significantly lower cruise arrivals that has characterized the 2013 tourist season continued through July.

The latest figures, released by the Department of Tourism, show a drop of nearly 26,000 visitors arriving on cruise ships in July compared to the same month last year. The 66,874 arrivals represent the worst July since 2000.

It is the fifth consecutive month in which figures have dipped to a decade-long low.

Downtown retailers, meanwhile, say the decline has had an impact. The board of directors at Island Companies, owned by Dart Enterprises, cited the fall-off in cruise ship visitors as the principal motivation for closing four stores at the Flagship building in August.

According to previous Port Authority statements, the company would have needed to hang on only until October to see the bleak picture on the waterfront start to change.

The summer lull will likely lead to a decade low figure of 1.4 million cruise arrivals this year. But the Port Authority expects to see 1.8 million visitors arrive in 2014 and 2015 – close to the all-time high.

The estimate is based on advance bookings from major cruise lines, which set their schedules up to two years in advance. Several cruise lines have moved ships from struggling European routes to the Caribbean from October, meaning increased calls in Grand Cayman.

Meanwhile, air arrivals continue to increase with 33,880 tourists flying into the Cayman Islands in July, according to the statistics updated monthly by the Department of Tourism. The figure represents an increase from 32,581 for the same month last year.

Cruise tourists spend an average of $67 a day in the Cayman Islands, while tourists arriving by air spend $194 a day, according to figures collated from visitor exit surveys.