While Cayman’s cruise ship tourism continues to grow, passenger arrivals for 2017 are expected to fall below the 2016 total, in part due to bad weather during the first quarter of the year.
Port Director Clement Reid said he expects to see numbers pick back up in October, but does not expect the year to surpass last year’s 1.7 million arrivals.
“We’re hoping there will be some positive growth. It won’t be as great as last year, but there will be positive growth,” he said.
During the first six months of the year, 885,643 cruise passengers arrivedin Cayman, down 9 percent year-to-date. However, the total beats the 10-year average by 28.5 percent.
The Port Authority forecasts cruise arrivals to continue growing over the next 30 years to a maximum of 2.4 million annual arrivals. The Cayman Islands reached a record number of cruise passengers in 2006 with 1.9 million arrivals.
Cruise berthing facility
To accommodate the increased passenger load, the port will be moving forward with berthing facility plans in George Town to accommodate larger vessels and more foot traffic.
“What the facility allows to happen is the sustainability of cruise tourism because then the vessels will have a place to berth. They will be able to accommodate the larger Oasis-class series, which currently can’t stop in Cayman,” Mr. Reid said.
Plans for the George Town facility have been modified to account for environmental concerns, voiced during community forums, he added.
“All the numbers have been reduced in terms of dredging. The piers have now been pushed to the edge of the drop-off, so the last mooring for the pier will be in approximately 90 feet of water,” Mr. Reid said.
“… Dredging has been minimized. The amount of coral impact has been minimized. We pushed the piers further offshore, which means the vessels will be further offshore. They’ll be at approximately the same distance that they are now when they drop their anchor.”
Mr. Reid hopes the changes will improve accessibility to the waterfront and encourage cruise ship crew members to enter George Town rather than remain aboard their vessels.
“With the cruise berthing facility, a new market will be created in this economy. The demands for the crew are different than the demands from the guests. The crew want pharmaceutical goods and local food,” he said.
He also expects the facility to be a boon for business on shore, as entrepreneurs tap into new opportunities.
“The economic impact is huge to the island in terms of job creation, job sustainability and the dollar value that’s actually injected into the economy. It allows the small business person to actually set up shop and be able to conduct business in the tourism sector versus trying to do that with the stay-over guests,” he said.
Cruise ship sizes are expected to grow in coming years to accommodate upward of 7,000 passengers. With up to four ships in port at a time, Mr. Reid estimates, Grand Cayman could see 24,000 passengers, plus crew, on shore a day.