(CMR) Minister of Tourism Kenneth Bryan said he will be seeking funding in the next budget to help small businesses and entrepreneurs set up shops across the Cayman Islands to increase authentic tourism products and services outside the traditional tourism hot spots.
Mr. Bryan appealed to Caymanians to come up with creative ideas which can be lucrative for the tourism industry.
He pointed out that with the number of cruise ships coming to the Cayman Islands expected to decrease in the next few years because of Cayman's inability to host large ships, it is important to make the best of those that come by offering more to get repeat passengers off ships.
The minister was speaking at a press conference on Friday, 23 June, following the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association‘s 2023 Platinum Associate Member Advisory Council Conference. Local industry players were able to meet with officials in the cruise industry as Cayman hosted the conference last week.
Director of Tourism Rosa Harris said much of the information coming out of the conference will be used to work with industry partners to develop the tourism product.
She also stated that “It is important for us to diversify…there is so much more for Grand Cayman to offer for diversifying immersive experiences.”
Michele Paige, FCCA president, also highlighted the need for diversity, explaining that there are more repeat passengers on cruise ships than before.
“While your long-established excursions are important, it needs to be underlined that a number of passengers have been here before,” she stated, adding that the Cayman Islands score high on guest satisfaction ratings.
She said about 60 percent of passengers on cruises are first times, so it's important to maximize to get repeat visitors off the ships.
“Your most precious resource is your people. People-to-people tours too… our cruise passengers want to hear your stories; they want to be immersed in your culture,” Paige added.
Wendy McDonald, Regional Vice President of Government Relations for Royal Caribbean, said, “It is always important for you to look at how can you separate yourself. What are the niche tours…diversity is always important for our passengers.”
“What our passengers want is to come and immerse themselves in your culture and history. Another thing that our passengers ask for a lot is culinary experiences,” she explained.
She said Cayman is on high appeal among passengers, and Royal Caribbean will continue to come; however, Royal Caribbean is making bigger ships, and some of these ships will not be able to go to some markets.
McDonald explained that a pier experience is preferred over a tender experience, especially with ships that carry a large number of passengers.
Meantime, Bryan said that the pier is a factor in the Cayman Islands not returning to pre-pandemic level in the number of cruise passengers visiting and the 70 percent projection of cruise passengers for this year. However, he said the Cayman Islands have made a decision to commit to the sustainability of the environment, and so the government will continue to honor those wishes.
“Unfortunately, we will miss out on a number of ships over the next two years, and to be honest with you, there may be even more as we go further down the future. Hence the reason I have taken the strategic approach to try to get more money out of those that we do have, being quality over quantity,” he stated.
Mr. Bryan further stated that with competition between stayover guests and cruise passengers on Seven Mile Beach, he hopes beachfront properties the Government has been strategically buying can be used to accommodate cruise passengers.
From January to May 2023, Cayman welcomed 666,000 cruise passengers, 73.8 % of 2019 capacity.