Cruise lines still refuse to offer mega-ships

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A cruise ship visits Grand Cayman (file photo)

(CNS): The number of cruise passengers expected to visit the Cayman Islands in coming years is expected to drop significantly, Tourism Minister Kenneth Bryan said following recent meetings with cruise lines. Without a cruise berth facility in George Town, Carnival and Royal Caribbean are still refusing to offer their biggest ships, and as they increase the number of these mega ships in this region, the number of passengers calling will decrease. around 50% by 2024.

Speaking at the annual meeting of the Cayman Islands Tourism Association on Thursday, Bryan, who has spent much of the last month on the road attending tourism-related events, briefed members of the private sector on the sector in general.

Speaking at the Florida Caribbean Cruise Association (FCCA) conference in the Dominican Republic earlier this month, he said the major cruise lines had confirmed the likely decrease in the number of passengers they would bring next year and the ‘Next year. Bryan said it was unfortunate, but “due to our lack of walk and walk facilities” the larger vessels are unwilling to tender, primarily due to the “time it takes to transport the passengers on and off ships”.

But he stressed that the PACT government would not go against the will of the people and that there would be no dock. Instead, he engaged with other cruise lines with smaller ships to encourage them to make more calls during the year. He said discussions with lines operating smaller vessels with higher purchasing power passengers were encouraging and will always come and even increase the number of calls.

By 2024, the annual number of cruise passengers in Cayman will be around 746,000, with major cruise lines cutting calls to this destination. While this is about half the number of passengers seen at the height of cruise tourism in 2019, current tourism policy is to focus on the quality of customers rather than the number.

Overnight tourism is expected to gradually return to pre-pandemic figures, with customers expected to spend more when they are here in 2023, which will be the first full year of stay and cruise tourism.

Bryan said he appreciates that those focused on the cruise business should prepare for decline. He said that by 2024, Royal Caribbean will bring 100,000 fewer cruisers than in 2019, and Carnival will reduce the number of ships from 327 to 171 next year. Given the certainty of fewer cruise passengers but an increase in stay-over visitors, he advised business owners to ‘tweak’ their operations and ‘be smart about their business decisions’ .

In the meantime, he said, his department had had “encouraging” discussions with cruise lines operating smaller ships with higher-yield passengers, such as MSC Cruises and Holland America, and that Cayman could “expect their hours to be maintained and perhaps increase in the near future”.

But with the growth of air travel and market campaigns having the desired effect, the Minister was extremely optimistic about the increase in the much more lucrative overnight market, which is already shaping up to be the best winter season on record. . “Projections indicate growth will continue into 2023 and capacity in the Cayman Islands will exceed 2019 figures,” he said.

Even though American Airlines and other US-based carriers will fly fewer people here in the upcoming winter season, Cayman Airways’ new flight to LAX and other additional airlines coming to Cayman, the total number air bridges increased by around 1% compared to 2019.

Marc Langevin, outgoing president of CITA and manager of the Ritz-Carlton, said visitor numbers were finally back after the borders were closed. He said the big three hotels and other accommodation sectors expected the last three months of this year to be even better than the record season of 2019. The Ministry of Tourism’s target for 2022 was 40 percent of the 2019 figure, which would equate to around 200,000 passengers and be easily exceeded, officials confirmed.


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