Tourism Minister Moses Kirkconnell said government is focussing primarily on stayover tourism right now, partially out of necessity.
Cruise tourism is still banned by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and there is no clarity on when the industry will resume and what it will look like.
Until Cayman has a clearer idea of how many ships the major cruise lines will put back into circulation in the Caribbean, what the passenger loads are likely to be and what routes would be operating, Kirkconnell said it was difficult to put together a plan for the future of cruise tourism. “A year ago, we never thought we could experience anything like this,” he said.
“We did everything we could from the time we woke up to the time we went to bed to create opportunity for the 4,000 people, including more than 2,000 Caymanians, that were working in cruise. Now the guidelines of what the responsibility of the government is, has changed.”
Longer term, he said, there was still considerable doubt about what a post-COVID cruise industry will look like.
He said tender operators and tour boats would likely have to charge more to compensate for the necessary reduction in passengers to enable social distancing. Though government has abandoned the pier project, questions remain over the willingness of the cruise lines to use tender services and if their COVID protocols will even allow for that.
On the plus side, he said, it was possible that the dynamics of the industry would change – meaning smaller passenger loads, higher prices and more affluent customers.
“There is going to be an opportunity there because of the attractiveness of the western Caribbean route, but we won’t know what that opportunity is going to be until we see what the cruise lines are going to be able to do based on the public-health guidelines, based on social distancing, based on how many people they can bring and what they are going to charge.”
In the meantime, he said, the Ministry of Tourism’s focus was on reskilling and retraining those left without jobs amid the decline of cruise tourism, to work either in stayover – which is expected to come back sooner – or in other areas of the economy.