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Cruise Passengers: Significant Reduction in 2023 and 2024

Front Pages 25 Oct, 2022 Follow News

Minister of Tourism, Hon. Kenneth Bryan speaking at the CITA AGM

CITA AGM and the Marriott.

By Christopher Tobutt

Cayman cruise tourism has to face significantly decreasing numbers said Tourism Minister Hon. Kenneth Bryan said during the Cayman Islands Tourism Association’s Annual General Meeting at the Marriott Hotel. The drop-off, predicted to begin in 2023 is expected to get worse year by year, as major cruise lines like Carnival and Caribbean begin bypassing the Cayman Islands because they are going to be using the new Oasis class mega ships, which require a walk-on walk-off berthing facility, while they continue to phase out the smaller ships.

Since this year has been the covid-recovery year, the figures are being compared to the totals for 2019. Minister Bryant shared the projected figures for 2023 and 2024: “Going forward ….cruise calls will be substantially reduced in 2023 and 2024. Two of the major cruise lines, Carnival and Caribbean confirmed they would be reducing due to walk on walk off capability.” Minister Bryan said that present figures of around 400,000 visitors for one would drop to around 300,000 by 2024, with a similar drop predicted for the other. “I know that’s not the type of news anyone wants to hear but this is the reality and it should not be anything we are surprised about,” he said.

Other official figures recently released forecast a drop of more than half from the 2019 numbers of 1.8 million to 746,000 in 2024. The figures broadly agree with predictions given during a public hearing in 2018, when Miguel Reyna of Royal Caribbean said that numbers would fall from 450,000 a year to 250, “Within five years.”

Oasis-class ships are being moved to the Western Caribbean routes, while the older, Freedom class are being phased out. At that time Mr. Reyna said there were no plans to tender the Oasis class ships in any port. In a similar way, Carnival is phasing out its smaller vessels in favor of the new megaships such as Horizon, Vista and Panorama were simply not being considered for ports without berthing facilities.

The last government’s plans to build a cruise birthing facility were not realized, first by the vote for the referendum, which never actually took place after a legal challenge by CPR’s followed by the hiatus caused by Covid. The PACT government has stated that it had no plans to build a cruise berthing facility.

During his address, Minister Bryan’s good news was that air arrivals, and consequently stayover tourism, was set to increase in the next few years. He also said the recent major upgrade of the Owen Roberts International Airport had not been enough to prevent the possibility of significant congestion in the near future, saying, “We have been the victims of our success.”

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