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FCCA ENDORSES CAYMAN’S NEW CRUISE STRATEGY

Front Pages 26 Jun, 2023 Follow News

FCCA ENDORSES CAYMAN’S NEW CRUISE STRATEGY

Hon Kenneth Bryan

Rosa Harris, Director CIDOT

Michelle Paige, CEO FCCA

Wendy McDonald

Cayman welcomes back cruise

By Staff Writer

An initiative by Hon. Minister of Tourism and Ports, Kenneth Bryan, to refocus Cayman’s cruise tourism sector has received a key endorsement from the industry powerhouse, the Florida Caribbean Cruise Association(FCCA).

The Cayman Islands Government (CIG), via the Ministry and Department of Tourism, played host for the first time to the FCCA’s influential annual Platinum Associate Member Advisory Council Conference(PAMAC).

One of the main outcomes of the gathering of over a hundred delegates representing various cruise lines and industry representatives was the emphasis on a new Cayman experience for cruise visitors.

With a cruise pier never far away from deliberations about the cruise industry, Tourism Minister Bryan, put into policy mode, a concept he had disclosed in a recent interview on the Caymanian Times programme Cayman Conversations.

That entails supporting Cayman’s cottage tourism-related industries by bringing their unique offerings and products into the mainstream of the overall tourism marketing plan.

VISITOR EXPERIENCE

The aim, he said, is to enhance the experience of cruise passengers during their Cayman visit with the goal of converting them into longer-stay hotel guests or ensuring their further visits.

“From the government’s perspective, it is recognised that building new attractions in providing funding and access to funding for entrepreneurs to bring new business offerings and to and to market is where our focus needs to be in the short term and in the long term. And that’s why we’ll be seeking funding in the next budget coming up to help small businesses and entrepreneurs to start small shops across our country so that we can increase the number of authentic tourism products and services, particularly outside our traditional tourism hotspots.”

According to Mr Bryan, the emphasis going forward will be quality over quantity “because the mass model style of cruise tourism that we followed for years simply isn’t sustainable for islands limited and fragile natural resources.”

That new strategy is welcomed by the FCCA’s Chief Executive Officer(CEO) Michele Paige. She encouraged Cayman to push through the concept of opening up new experiences for their cruise passengers and also ships’ crews by getting more small businesses into the mix with their diverse offerings.

“What we’ve been able to accomplish is having new entrepreneurs be able to come in so we can spread out the people. We want to be able to have many aspects of the Cayman Islands be able to seize the economic avenue of the cruise industry. So that’s the goal that we have having passengers maximise the spending, be able to have all of the aspects understood of what the Cayman Islands represents.”

CRUISING BACK

Cayman is back at over 70 per cent of cruise arrivals between January and May this year compared to 2019 and the projections for the rest of the years also look promising.

Director of Tourism Rosa Harris, whose office coordinated the PAMAC meeting, arranged networking opportunities between the FCCA executives and Cayman tourism entrepreneurs, and exposed students to career opportunities in the industry.

She underlined the drive to diversify the industry in Cayman beyond the existing attractions with the necessary government funding expected in the upcoming budget.

“There’s so much more for Cayman to offer in terms of diversified immersive experiences,” the tourism director stated.

“We want to be able to work with industry partners to be able to deliver more opportunities and that will be underpinned - hopefully in the next budget - where we will be able to deliver a Visitor Development Experience Fund to be able to help entrepreneurs new and old to be able to invest and get it started up. So the outlook for cruise is stable,” Ms Harris assured.

PIER PRESSURE?

However, a recurring issue in Cayman’s cruise sector deliberations is the absence of a cruise pier.

While cruise calls are back to 70 per cent of 2019 year-to-date cruise arrivals, Tourism Minister Bryan acknowledged that other destinations are already at their 2019 peak largely due to the presence of cruise piers.

But he explained that the government respects the wishes of the people of the Cayman Islands upheld in a court ruling against a proposed cruise pier in George Town, hence the reason why other options are being explored.

“You’ve heard where other islands have gone back to their 100% of the 2019 numbers. There’s a factor and that factor is the pier,” he stated.

“As I’ve said many times to the executives in respect of pier; the people have spoken and we’re not going down that road. But the 70% is a reflection of that decision. Unfortunately, we will miss out on a number of ships over the next two years and to be honest with you, they may be even more as we go further down the future. Hence, the reason why you see I’ve taken the strategic approach to try to get more money out of those that we do have (with) quality over quantity.”

Mr Bryan said one option is to better utilise the available space at the port, a matter which is being addressed with the assistance of cruise companies, particularly Disney Cruises, regarding the port’s functionality.

“I want to take this opportunity to thank Disney…They have some really good design specialists who came down and worked with us about how we could flow the traffic and people coming off and on(the ships).  We’ve implemented some of that and it’s working pretty well, considering the size of our arrival of space,” the minister said.

CAYMAN APPEAL

Wendy McDonald, the Regional Vice-president for Government Relations with Royal Caribbean Cruise Line also endorsed the new strategy for a more diversified itinerary for their passengers in Cayman.

From her perspective, a cruise pier does have its advantages, and with cruise ships getting bigger, calling at Cayman for some might pose challenges. However, she said Cayman retains a high appeal as a preferred cruise destination.

“We love Cayman and our passengers all want to come to Cayman, and we go where our passengers want to go. And when they have these wonderful experiences, they come back and ask for the itineraries to include the destinations that they enjoyed so much. The hospitality the friendliness, the beauty of Cayman was very clear to us.”

A key part of diversifying the offerings to cruise passengers, Tourism Minister Bryan said the government is encouraging a push to the east and also purchasing beachfront real estate for access to secluded beaches as part of the package.

He is encouraging Cayman entrepreneurs to come up with new and innovative ideas for funding consideration and urges them to cooperate and not undercut each other.


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