(CMR) Jamaican tourism minister Edmund Bartlett has indicated that a 25 percent drop in that country's cruise visitors last year was partly due to Cayman's lack of a cruise port that can accommodate mega-ships. He clearly articulated that the Cayman Islands is an integral part of Jamaica's success story and is arguably the jewel of the Caribbean for cruise visitors.
His comments clarify that without Cayman, cruise lines are willing to make significant reductions in the size and quality of vessels they deploy to other Caribbean destinations. Bartlett shared that despite Royal Caribbean Lines cutting cruise visitors to Falmouth they were still collecting a head tax despite the vessels' absence. Essentially, the government was not losing any revenue despite the reduction. However, this further revelation begs to question why the Cayman Islands Government is so committed to building a port irrespective of the many objections that have been presented against the project.
Last year Jamaican PM Andrew Holiness visited the Cayman Islands and sources indicate that it was primarily to further convince the Cayman Government to commit to the building of expansion project. Tourism Minister, Honourable Moses Kirkconnell and Councilor David Wight visited Jamaican and traveled back for the Constitutional Weekend Celebrations.
In a statement covered in Monday's Jamaican Observer Bartlett shared:
“In the meantime, I have been having very extensive discussions with Royal Caribbean Lines about getting Falmouth back on track, and re-establishing the western Caribbean itinerary that would include Labadee in Haiti and Cayman, on the presumption that Cayman would build a port large enough to accommodate these mega vessels. The itinerary of Falmouth, Labadee and Cayman would become, arguably, the most lucrative itinerary in the world, and the projections are that more than two million visitors would then come to Falmouth on an annual basis,”
Bartlett's comments were made after Dr. Wykeham McNeill questions the accuracy of cruise figures being submitted by the Jamaica Information Service.
Bartlett's comments indicate some of the backdrop against which the Cayman government is now prepared to push for the cruise berthing facility at all costs. One keen observer shared:
“Now we can fully understand the implications of why this deal is so important to our regional partners and the recent chumminess of our premier with Jamaican officials, who have historically been ignored. For many years, they were prepared to ignore the Jamaican tourism ministry but now the tides have conveniently turned. Why would a cruise line decrease their numbers to Jamaica on the one hand while using strong-handed tactics to negotiate a new port with us?”
The bottom line appears to be – Can we really believe the Cayman Islands Government when they say that we will lose out significantly in the cruise industry when we are in fact the key destination that draws cruise visitors?