Cayman’s cruise numbers put into context

Uncertainty over the possibility of constructing a cruise berthing facility in George Town continues. Cayman has also experienced three years of cruise visitor numbers lower than the peak times of the mid-2000s. However, a new report commissioned by the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association shows that Cayman is still one of the top performers for cruise spending within the Caribbean region. 

The Business Research and Economic Advisors Cruise Analysis 2012 surveyed 21 Caribbean destinations between December 2011 and the end of May 2012. It was designed to generate a representative sample of passengers in these destinations. Each of the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association’s member cruise lines visited each destination at least once during the survey period. 

The study comprised nearly 29,000 passenger surveys and a sliver under 8,000 surveys completed and returned by crew.  

On that basis, the results were calculated with the Cayman Islands coming in as the fourth-highest performing destination. During the 2011/12 cruise year, according to the report, US$24.9 million was spent by cruisers and cruise lines visiting Cayman. Of this, 90 per cent was port, navigation and passenger fees. 

This was achieved despite a Caribbean-wide 1.7 per cent drop in average passenger spending compared to the previous analysis, which was undertaken in 2009. Specific to Cayman, the actual drop was from $96.78 to $93.75. Across the region, the drop was 0.8 per cent per passenger. The highest on-shore passenger spending, according to the report, was $185 per person, which was reported by St Maarten.  

In Cayman, crew spending has much more significantly decreased, from $108.81 in 2009 to $57.50 during the survey window. This over 47 per cent decrease was significantly worse than the general decline in Caribbean cruise expenditures, which was 3.6 per cent. 

According to the report, total direct cruise expenditures of the industry in Cayman from the industry was $158 million, the fifth highest in the Caribbean. This equated to the creation of 3,547 local jobs, generating $66.6 million in wage income, which averaged out at an annual wage of $19,000 for each worker. Each $1 million in direct cruise expenditure led to the creation of 22 jobs. The Bahamas led all Caribbean destinations with $394 million in expenditures. This was based on 4.4 million onshore passenger and crew visits, more than twice the amount of the US Virgin Islands, which was the second highest. 

Cayman’s onshore visits totalled 1.5 million, which was the fourth highest in the region. 


Increase in expenditures  

The report noted that although passenger spending had declined, there had also been a 16 per cent increase in total direct expenditures in the 20 destinations, which were in both the 2008/09 and 2011/12 seasons surveyed. The region’s total direct cruise tourism expenditure was $1.96 billion in 2011/12, compared to $1.69 billion in the 2008/09 survey.  

“The Bahamas led all destinations with $393.8 million, followed by St. Maarten with $356.2 million, the US Virgin Islands with $339.8 million, Puerto Rico with $186.6 million and the Cayman Islands with $157.7. Combined, these five destinations with $1.43 billion in direct expenditures accounted for 72 per cent of the total cruise tourism expenditures among the 21 destinations,” read the report. 

“The next nine destinations with expenditures between $25 and $100 million accounted for 23 per cent of the total cruise tourism expenditures with a combined total of $457.7 million in direct spending. Direct spending among these nine destinations ranged from $30.3 million in the British Virgin Islands to $70.6 million in St. Kitts and Nevis. In addition to St. Kitts, Aruba ($63.7 million), Belize ($61 million), the Turks and Caicos ($60.6 million) and Barbados ($53.7 million) had total cruise tourism expenditures in excess of $50 million.” 

Among the 20 destinations that participated in both the current and 2009 studies, read the report, eight showed an increase in cruise tourism expenditures from the 2008/2009 cruise years, three experienced no change and direct spending fell in nine destinations.  

“In each of the eight destinations that experienced an increase in expenditures – Aruba, the Bahamas, Colombia, Dominica, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Maarten and the Turks and Caicos – total passenger and crew visits increased over the three-year period.  

“This increase in onshore visits was enhanced by increases in the average expenditure per visit in Aruba, Colombia, Dominica, St. Kitts and Nevis and St. Maarten. In the remaining three destinations (the Bahamas, Belize and the Turks and Caicos), the increase in visits was partially offset by a decline in average per visit expenditures.” 

Three destinations experienced only a marginal increase in cruise tourism expenditures of less than 2.5 per cent. In Barbados both passenger and crew onshore visits and average expenditures per visit, which includes home port passengers, remained virtually unchanged. In Curacao the increase in visits was offset by a decline in the average spending per visit. Finally, in Puerto Rico a decline in onshore visits was offset by an increase in the average spend per visit. 

“Finally among the nine destinations with a decline in total expenditures, four – Antigua, the Cayman Islands, Honduras and St. Vincent and the Grenadines -experienced a decline in both onshore passenger and crew visits and average expenditures per visit. Both the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua experienced an increase in spending per visit but it was not strong enough to offset the decline in onshore visits.”