Deputy Premier and Tourism Minister stressed that the cruise and stayover markets are complementary and can coexist together to benefit the country’s economy.
“There are diverse job and business opportunities in our tourism sector as a whole and cruise tourism offers great value to our local economy,” said Mr. Kirkconnell.
Mr. Kirkconnell says that the tourism sector offers a unique opportunity for Caymanians to establish their own small business and that it has been a key source of support for the livelihoods of thousands of Caymanians for decades.
“Once this new facility is built, the cruise lines have told us that they will need additional tour excursions. That means there are significant opportunities for Caymanians to benefit from,” said Mr. Kirkconnell.
The cruise sector has always contributed directly to our stayover tourism because many persons that visit as stayover tourist first experienced and got to love our island as a cruise visitor. The sectors are complementary and have coexisted perfectly for decades,” he added.
Data from the Department of Tourism supports Mr. Kirkconnell’s point because the DOT estimates that approximately 20% of stayover visitors initially visited Cayman on a cruise.
“There are more than 300 dive sites surrounding our beautiful island and this port development will impact less than 1% of our environment. In addition, we are taking the extra steps to put measures in place to mitigate that impact. I think that is a very clear and strong demonstration that we are treating our environment as a priority. This is all about striking a balance and the approach we have taken thus far demonstrates that we are striking that balance to ensure that this development is environmentally sustainable.” Mr. Kirkconnell said.
The Deputy Premier went into some detail on the economic value of the cruise sector.
“We have been advised by the experts that if we do not proceed with the new facility, our cruise tourism will suffer a decline. That decline will not be easily made up by our stayover markets because it is not possible to have the required growth in hotels, airlines and other services to support that growth,” he explained.
The minister explained that with hundreds of students graduating each year, the country needs to be proactive about creating jobs for its people but he is also concerned about the loss of jobs and opportunities if the project does not proceed.
He also explained that while the number of cruise visitors will remain similar during the high season, local tour and excursion operators will see a significant increase in business during the summer months.
“During the summer months we will see more cruise visitors so there will be significantly more opportunities for new and existing businesses. More excursions will be needed and the existing excursion operators which typically experience less business during those months will also have an increase in their revenues”, said the Minister.
“We need to be planning for the future, while protecting the current jobs and business opportunities,” Mr. Kirkconnell added.