For more than a decade, successive governments have attempted to construct a berthing facility in George Town Harbour on the basis that the sustainability of our cruise tourism industry was in jeopardy without one.
Rather than accepting assumptions or considering conjecture regarding its provision, the Cayman Islands government has sought to unequivocally establish the facts. One of the world’s most respected ‘big four’ auditors, PricewaterhouseCoopers, was contracted to develop the Cruise Berthing Outline Business Case and provide independent, evidence-based analysis of the socio-economic benefits, as well as the environmental risks.
Having campaigned on the premise of a berthing facility, government justifiably believes that it has the mandate from, and an obligation to, the people of the Cayman Islands to try to deliver on that pledge. But that should not mistakenly be interpreted as provision at any cost, irrespective of consequences.
On the contrary, we are keenly aware that our natural environment is integral to the viability of our tourism product. We therefore remain committed to ensuring that developments, such as the berthing facility are carefully and responsibly reviewed at a holistic level, and will ensure that current and future generations derive the highest benefit from ongoing growth and opportunity.
Accordingly, the fact that the findings of the most comprehensive environmental impact assessment ever to be undertaken in the Cayman Islands has been openly shared, and public engagement encouraged, underscores this government’s commitment to transparency and inclusivity being an inherent part of this process.
This approach endorses our belief that the tourism industry can, and should, be advantageous to all of the people of the Cayman Islands. It also recognizes that continued growth is reliant in part on the timely provisioning of the infrastructure required to buttress its development.
As such, our tourism strategy looks beyond the myopic value-versus-volume perspectives of stay-over versus cruise visitation and recognizes the vital contributions from each sector, which keep the wheels of our economy turning.
For the Cayman Islands to maintain our standing as a preferred stay-over and cruise port destination, we must face the uncomfortable truth that aspects of our tourism product must be enhanced in keeping with the expectations of well-travelled consumers within a dynamic industry.
The installation of the proposed cruise piers are intended to effectively elevate our cruise passenger experience to bring the Cayman Islands on par with the norms of modern cruising. Doing so will address the cruise lines’ two major concerns; one being to enhance the passenger experience, the other, improving passenger safety, particularly for children and seniors.
While we can justifiably laud increased visitor arrivals, we ignore at our peril the cues which tell us that we are reaching the point of diminishing returns. Refusal to satisfy the expectations of consumers and failure to improve our tourism product will over time, lead to lost market share. This is why proactive measures are under way to expand the Owen Roberts International Airport, and the same principle applies to our cruise port infrastructure.
Moreover, we are cognizant that the majority of destinations against which our cruise experience is evaluated, possess the competitive advantage of berthing facilities, and provide the walk on/walk off convenience and flexibility that cruise passengers seek.
As a country, having wrestled with the question of cruise berthing versus no cruise berthing for many years, the Ministry of Tourism is engaged with gathering data to assist Cabinet in reaching an informed decision. Until this process has concluded and government has had the benefit of evaluating all of the findings, it would be premature to arrive at a final conclusion on this important national issue. We do however look forward to updating the people of the Cayman Islands in due course when the decision has been taken.
Minister of Tourism
July 30, 2015