Cruise tourism revenue in Cayman is growing, according to a report commissioned by an industry body, despite a decline in visitor numbers. The latest Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association report reveals that the cruise sector appears to be doing much better, with passengers spending more in the destinations they visit. The findings suggest that cruise tourism generated a total of US$174.4 million in the Cayman Islands during the 2008/2009cruise year (May08-April 09). It also reveals that the time passengers spent ashore was also relatively high, even when compared to destinations with berthing facilities.
The report comes at a time when cruise tourism numbers have been increasing again in Cayman when compared to visitor numbers for this time last year and as government comes close to finalizing a deal to develop cruise berthing facilities in the George Town Harbour.
Despite one of the gloomiest financial years since the Great Depression, according to the study, regional cruise tourism among FCCA members in 2008-2009 generated more than $2.2 billion in direct expenditures, 56,000 jobs and $720 million in employee wages among the 29 destinations surveyed.
“This certainly is wonderful news, but it doesn’t surprise me,” FCCA president Michele Paige told association members attending the 16th Annual Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association’s Conference and Trade Show in St Lucia. “FCCA members are known for seeing opportunities — not obstacles.”
During the survey period 1.45 million cruise passengers arrived in the Cayman Islands aboard cruise ships, with more than 90% coming ashore. Further estimates reveal that 571,291 crew members were on the ships and 35% of those came ashore. Passengers spent an average of $96 during their visit stay on a range of purchases, from watches and jewellery to shore excursions and food & beverage.
According to the report, crew members spent even more than the passengers when coming ashore, with an average of US$108. The average time spent on shore in Cayman was 4.3 hours, and despite the tendering which is considered a hindrance to passengers disembarking, the survey revealed that 91% of the cruise parties that completed the survey disembarked their cruise ship to visit the Cayman Islands. This compared favourably with many other destinations, such as the Bahamas and St Lucia where only 80% came ashore and Turks & Caicos where 85% disembarked.
Of the cruise parties that came ashore in Cayman, 89% made at least one purchase during their four plus hours. The time ashore also compared favourably to that of destinations with cruise berthing, such as Jamaica where the average was 4.5 hours and the Bahamas where it was 4.6. Visitors stayed longer in Cayman than they did in Turks & Caicos, which had an average of only 3.5, St Vincent & the Grenadines with 3.4 and 4.2 hours in Aruba, despite their berthing facilities.
The report also claims that the wage income generated by cruise tourism in the Cayman Islands economy for the cruise year 2008/09 was US$69.5 million and had helped to create over 3,700 jobs. Although passenger numbers showed a decline compared to the last major study commissioned by the FCCA in 2006 in Cayman, the average spend per passenger had increased by 17% and by 136% per crew member. Moreover, despite fewer passenger numbers, the report revealed that cruise tourism had generated slightly more jobs since the study in 2006.
In their assessment of their on shore visits to Cayman, passengers said they were happy with the level of “friendliness of residents” and “courtesy of employees” but historic sites, variety of things to see and do and overall prices were scored low. The report also stated that cruise passengers said they were not too likely to return to the Cayman Islands for a land-based vacation.
The FCCA study analyzed a wide variety of factors, including spending by passengers, crew members and cruise lines in destinations ranging from the Caribbean islands, Mexico, Central America and South America.