A wide range of tourism industry movers and government officials came together at the Kimpton hotel, along the Seven Mile Beach in Grand Cayman on Wednesday night for a networking reception.
The evening was as an opportunity for cruise tourism partners to meet
and greet Senior Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association (FCCA) Executives, led by FCCA President Michelle Paige.
The group was visiting the Cayman Islands for several days to discuss the timeline for the re-introduction of cruise-tourism market in Grand Cayman and the product that passengers can expect the future.
It has been nearly two years since the last cruise ship graced the George Town Harbour and between a fatigued government stipend programme, frustrated merchants and tour operators and a slowing economy, the need for the return of the industry has never been more crucial.
Though the government in Cayman has been pushing for Cayman to be the first port-of-call on voyages to the Caribbean and had high demands and expectations from the cruise industry representatives, the demands were just as high from their counterparts.
FCCA President Michelle Paige noted that while it was important to get ships back to Cayman, it was also necessary to focus on elevating the product that is being offered.
She explained that cruises have several tiers of paying passengers who are all seeking different experiences and pointed out that the Cayman Islands had much more to offer than the product that was currently on the market before the covid-19 pandemic.
‘I still don’t know what your culinary experience is,’ she noted, adding that lots of guests want to see a more authentic Cayman experience. Cayman cannot simply hide behind the Caribbean and not show its truly amazing uniqueness and Caymanian essence.
‘People want to see Cayman. They want a unique product that showcases the culinary and cultural aspects your Island. You’re not just in the Caribbean, you’re in the Cayman Islands’ she remarked.
There is also an opportunity for Cayman to have excursions to the Sister Islands for cruise ship passengers who wish to see them during their short visits and more exclusive packages are a great selling point, according to the FCCA representatives., who referred to Cayman as being one of their best relationships.
‘Cayman is the highlight of many cruisers and the re-emergence of cruise-tourism is going to be a rewarding time. We are prepared to come back as many times as necessary to make it happen and we hope to also see more Caymanians hired on ships,’ noted the visiting contingent.
‘We are on the cusp of a winning combo and we have had the time now to reevaluate the product, they said.
In his remarks Tourism Minister, the Honourable Kennet Bryan said he had high hopes for the beleaguered cruise industry and noted that discussions with the visiting industry partners had been extremely promising.
‘Our discussions have centered largely around health and safety protocols and how to get folks back to work in the most important pillar in our economy.
‘Something like this was important to do in person and having the group from the FCCA here to look at the finer details was extremely important.’
Mr. Bryan explained that December was a learning experience, referring to the late decision to have a scheduled cruise-liner not call to Cayman as a port due to concerns around the Omicron variant of Covid-19.
He said the discussion with the group had given the government insight into how to approach Cayman’s product going forward and way to capture more market share.
‘For years we have been told that we need to offer a more authentic product and I think that needs to be another focus as we grow,’ said the Minister, who added that a press release would be forthcoming from his Ministry regarding the plans for the immediate future that have been agreed upon conclusion of the talks with the visiting contingent from the FCCA.